Op-Ed: Local Moms on a Mission to Keep Kids Healthy and Fit

Today’s generation will be the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than their parents due to physical inactivity. In fewer than two generations, children’s physical activity levels have dropped by more than 32 percent, while child obesity rates have nearly tripled in the past 30 years. These statistics can't be denied or ignored. It is crucial that we get our kids moving.


Four years ago, I read the book Spark, by John Ratey, M.D. (Little, Brown and Company, reprinted 2013) and was instantly inspired by the evidence he delivers on the positive impact physical activity before school has on kids – socially, academically and physically. With this new knowledge and a blessing from our school superintendent, a few Natick, Massachusetts moms and I decided to start a before school physical activity program – now known as BOKS, Build Our Kids’ Success. In a stroke of good luck, Boston-based fitness and apparel giant Reebok took notice of our efforts and made us an offer we could not refuse: to help us expand BOKS across the country and create healthy opportunities for our kids.


Now in more than 240 schools nationwide, BOKS is making a difference. When we surveyed more than 1,000 kids in the program, 90 percent said they wanted to come back for a second session. Ninety percent of kids wanted to get up an hour earlier to exercise before school! What does this tell us? We as a whole are inhibiting our children from opportunities to be physically active. If children are given the opportunity, they will choose to be active, play games and have fun. But it's all about creating those opportunities. We as parents are responsible for creating these opportunities.


Earlier this month, Memorial Elementary School in Natick, the first BOKS participant school, was one of three schools to be profiled as a success story on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools website. Memorial is a perfect example of what a community can do with a little determination and collaboration. A few moms on a mission started this movement! 


It has become clear that this formula of parents, teachers, community leaders, corporations, and foundations coming together to take responsibility and make a positive difference for the future of our kids is working.


On March 8, 2013, BOKS was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Partnership for Healthier America Annual Summit in Washington D.C. The First Lady and the PHA recognized the positive impact that BOKS has made on children, families and schools across the country. There is nothing more important than the health of our youth and right now American children are struggling. I appeal to you now. Get up, get moving and get ahead. Be a champion of change in your community.


The author, Kathleen Tullie, is Founder and Executive Director of BOKS: Building Our Kid’s Success, a nonprofit organization funded by The Reebok Foundation.

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24 Mar 2013

By Kathleen Tullie