CHICAGO - School days may be longer than ever, but in the afternoon in Miss Schoenecker's fourth grade class, kids are still alert and ready to learn.
"I know that with a longer school day that they would have a really hard time focusing. It would be a challenge for me to get across what I need to and it would be a challenge for them to learn; so this helps to get out their energy so they are ready to learn," said Ashley Schoenecker.
They get their energy out by taking running breaks.
"We started Chicago Run in an effort to get our Chicago public school kids up and active and to instill the daily habit of physical activity," explained Alicia Gonzalez, Executive Director of Chicago Run.
One in three children nationally are considered overweight or obese, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Just make sure your child or adolescent is doing three types of physical activity a week—muscles strengthening like gymnastics, bone strengthening such as jumping rope, and aerobic activity like running.
It's something Gonzalez knows firsthand. As the Executive Director of Chicago Run, she's an avid runner and she understands the positive effects running has on kids, especially in the inner city.
"I know what running did for me as a child. It was my ability to let loose. It was my way of de-stressing from some of the things I saw often in my neighborhood," Gonzalez said.
Now, she's motivating thousands of elementary and middle school kids to run their stress away too, so they can feel good and focus on their future.
"I like running because it makes me feel really good," said Jackie Najera, a fourth grade student.
"It helps me learn more and study more," said Carlos Mayo, also a fourth grader.
Chicago Run has grown from serving 2,000 to 13,500 students in 45 Chicago public schools since the organization formed five and a half years ago.
Gonzalez says that many schools are interested in programs like Chicago Run due to the need for more physical activity during the school day and the implementation of new health and wellness policies at the district level.
Running is not only physically stimulating, but it helps mentally and socially. Running is a cardio exercise that primarily works the heart and lungs. This helps to pump more blood into the body and makes the heart grow stronger. For someone who is fit and performs a lot of cardio, their heart rate should be at around 45 to 50 beats per minute. For someone who is not in shape, and does not perform much cardio, their heart rate should beat 75 to 80 beats per minute. Those who consistently run experience the "runner's high." This feeling happens when endorphins are released while exercising. Running is also known to give people more energy, and an increased stamina. (Source: rei.com/learn/expert-advice/running-basics.html)
BENEFITS: Running provides many benefits, like weight loss, reduces stress, increases brain power, and it is good for the heart. Running also prevents cancer, eases anxiety, grows cartilage, saves skin, improves hearing, prevents migraines, and builds muscle. These physical and emotional benefits lead to a healthy lifestyle and longer life. (Source: rei.com/learn/expert-advice/running-basics.html and http://www.runnersworld.com/health/nine-surprising-ways-running-helps-your-body?page=1)
CHICAGO RUN: Chicago Run is a nonprofit organization and was founded in 2007 to help kids in elementary and middle school stay active. Due to budget cuts within school systems, physical education was sacrificed for academic programs. To keep kids active throughout the school day, the organization meets with the schools site coordinator to find safe running grounds for the kids. The runners are rewarded in reaching their incremental mileage goals by incentives, events, and other surprises, usually donated by sponsors. The kids are also educated about running, along with nutrition and overall well-being. The children's data is recorded and then entered into the database. (Source: chicagorun.org/programs)
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