Music bounces off the blue-and-white gymnasium walls at Springvale Elementary School in Halifax. It’s Kids’ Run Club (KRC) day, and more than 80 people – from toddlers to tweens, plus a handful of parents – are warming up for the weekly 3-kilometre run.
On the stage, nine Grade 5 boys lead the runners through a vigorous routine of jogging on the spot, jumping jacks, burpees and push-ups.
“A different group leads the warm-up each week,” says John McGowan, who has organized KRC at Springvale for the past 11 years. “They like to help.”
It’s not long before everyone has worked up a sweat, and soon the runners are streaming out of the double doors, down the stairs and up the street toward the local Rails-to-Trails running path.
Springvale is one of 230 schools across Nova Scotia that participated in KRC in 2015.
Thanks to the hard work of teacher and parent volunteers, with program support from KRC staff Kerry Copeland, Leah Jabbour and Bernadette MacLellan, more than 16,000 Nova Scotian kids got outside and got active this spring.
About two-thirds of Springvale’s 350 students participate in KRC, says Mr. McGowan.
“It’s about developing a culture of participation,” he says. “The kids like to feel like they’re part of something.”
Aside from a sense of belonging, the KRC also helps kids get much-needed physical activity – and even manage stress.
“I just love going out for a run after school and being free,” says Owen Kinsman, a Grade 5 student. “Just being outside, running, letting everything fall off my shoulders.”
Parents say that the program encourages the whole family to be more active.
“We run as a family now,” says Kristin Morrow.
Ms. Morrow, who is on maternity leave, pushes her 10-month-old son David in the stroller while she and her daughter Kate, who’s in Grade 2, run.
Some parents even rearrange their schedules so that they can participate.
“It’s totally worth it to take an hour off work each week to come run with my three kids,” said Tanya Cook. “The KRC does a great job of encouraging physical activity.”
That is one of Mr. McGowan’s priorities.
“When new kids come to the school, I often notice a real difference in levels of participation and in fitness levels,” he says – perhaps unsurprising, considering that the school has close to 100 per cent participation rate in intra- and extramural sports programs. “But the longer they’re here the more they participate and the more active they are.”
And they’re active whatever the weather. On this May day, it’s cool and humid, the skies heavy and grey. But the runners – who weathered a long winter and a cold, wet spring – are undeterred. They run purposefully, in groups of two or three, taking no notice of the wind or the sprinkles of rain.
As they pass Mr. McGowan, they reach out for a high-five, smiles wide.
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET….
Read about family physician in Kentville, NS., Dr. Jocelyn Foran, who started a Kids’ Run Club in her community.
This story originally appeared in the July/Aug issue of doctorsNS magazine.
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