New Before School Physical Activity Program Helping Mass. Kids

Created by a group of Natick moms, the program teaches kids teamwork, physical activity, and improves academic performance.

kids playingKids playing photo via Shutterstock

A group of Massachusetts moms created a new, non-profit, before-school physical activity program called Build Our Kids Success (BOKS). The program is backed by the Reebok Foundation and currently in more than 180 schools nationwide, including many Boston-area elementary schools.

The moms read the book Spark, by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. John Ratey which states that “exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains” and then created a spark of their own. They started the program so that their kids could use the power of exercise to improve their performance in school, and their overall health. BOKS takes place two or three mornings a week and is around 45 minutes per class.

The kids start with some free play time and a warm-up, followed by a cardio activity like running. Then they go into the “skill of the week” where a trainer teaches the kids to properly do activities that are commonly performed wrong like squats and lunges. Next there is an end of class team game to build sportsmanship followed by a cool-down and nutrition talk written by Michael Leidig, the Clinical Director of the Center for Youth Wellness at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) did a study of 1500 kids in the program. They found, among other things, that teachers said that on BOKS days the kids are more focused and attentive, while on non-BOKS days they are less motivated to pay attention. They also found that the kids really want this type of physical activity to continue. With more and more schools cutting physical education from the curriculum, programs like this are important not only for our children’s health but for improved academic performance.

“I think out of all of the results, the fact that from a sample size of about 1500 kids, 96 percent of them wanted to come back to the BOKS program is simply astounding,” Dr. Ratey says. “Even with waking up earlier than normal for school, kids appreciate the opportunity to be active in the morning.”

If BOKS isn’t in your kids school, you can learn more at