Elementary Students Walk and Run for Better Health

For the last six months, Erin Sherrow-Hayse—a Community Wellness Coordinator in Lake County, has been working with Glen Park Academy School to increase physical activity opportunities for students. This elementary school located in Gary has an enrollment of 670 students, with 85% being eligible for free and reduced lunch. For many of its students, the only opportunity for daily physical activity is recess time.

In an effort to promote greater physical activity during recess, the idea of a running and walking club began. Recess time, especially for older students, is often spent standing and talking with limited movement and little, if any, vigorous exercise. Students are now encouraged to run laps along the school playground area, with those preferring a brisk walk able to do so as well. Both walkers and runners receive a small token once achieving 5 miles. The token is a plastic shoe charm in the shape of a foot. Glen Park students can be seen proudly wearing these tokens attached to their shoe laces. It’s a fun way for the school to recognize this fitness achievement. Probably even more important is the look of achievement on students’ faces as they are walking and running. After completing her second lap one fourth grade student said, “I made myself run two laps. I wanted to stop after the first one but I kept running!” When asked how she felt, the student replied with a big smile, “I feel good!”

School officials have also recently given approval to the CWC and the school health and wellness team to carry on the walk/run club in a newly designated fitness time. Fourth through sixth graders will now receive an extra 50 minutes of fitness time at the end of the school day, on a rotating schedule. This time includes a warm-up with beginning and ending time for stretching. Students are also instructed by school physical education teacher Mrs. Bugajski in doing self-monitored heart rate checks before and after exercise.

Continued efforts with this school and the community wellness coordinator have led to other physical activity developments, including a 20 minute fitness time before students took the recent ISTEP test. Faculty and staff of the school have also been encouraged to increase their physical activity through a walking campaign called “Glen Park Walking-the-Halls”.

As the 2016-2017 school year comes to an end, plans are being made to continue with these fitness initiatives for next year.