GOSHEN — Local students are running their schools’ hallways — and actually being encouraged to do so — as part of a free after-school exercise program being offered by Goshen Health.

According to Stacy Bowers, community wellness and education manager with Goshen Health, Run the Halls is a simple, easy-to-follow program started by the health system in 2012 that helps students increase their daily physical activity.

“Obesity has been identified as one of the primary health issues for our community. Run the Halls was developed as a strategy to help impact this need,” Bowers said of the program. “Research has demonstrated that after-school programs for children that provide opportunities for extracurricular physical activity can lead to improved obesity-related outcomes. It is hoped this will help students develop an interest in being active and understanding the key role activity plays in maintaining good health. Ultimately, this could impact obesity rates long term.”

Offered every spring and fall, the program is free to participating schools and open to all grade levels, though the program’s materials are currently geared primarily toward the elementary school level. For their part, participating schools must provide the facility and a club leader to help oversee the program, while Goshen Health provides the rest of the club supplies, Bowers explained.

“Clubs are required to meet two times a week for a minimum of six weeks,” Bowers said of the particulars of the program. “We provide guidelines and tips to the school for running the club. The schools are able to customize the club to best meet their needs — day, time, how often, etc. — but they must track the number of kids in the club, the total number of miles run and results from student pre/post assessments.”

According to Bowers, a total of six area schools are currently participating in the spring program, though the health system is always looking for more schools to add to the list. Examples of participating schools include Mary Daly Elementary of Elkhart, Jefferson Elementary of Goshen and Middlebury Elementary of Middlebury.

“The feedback from the schools has been very positive,” Bowers said of school response related to the program. “Many schools are repeat customers. We have received cards, positive comments, photos and thank you posters from our clubs. Pre- and post-assessments of students have indicated that, in a defined time period, students are able to complete more laps on the post run than the pre run. So we’re seeing improved fitness!”

And according to Christine Khaoucha, school nurse at longtime program participant Jefferson Elementary School, looking beyond the fitness aspect, the club is also just a lot of fun.

“The kids are participating and they really have a good time,” Khaoucha said of the school’s club. “They definitely enjoy it.”

Anyone interested in learning more about how their school can participate in Run the Halls is asked to call Bowers at 574-364-2904 or email her at sbowers@goshenhealth.com for an application and more information.

ABOUT GOSHEN HEALTH

Goshen Health is a community-owned, nonprofit healthcare organization. The health system includes 30 locations across four counties with specialized cancer care, heart and vascular care and a physician’s network with primary and specialty care.

John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN

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