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"Fitness Trail" Offers Glimpse at Possible Future of Recess at Westchester School

By Ari Odzer
|  Monday, Dec 16, 2013  |  Updated 10:28 PM EDT
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The future of recess might be happening at Rockway Elementary School in Westchester. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports.

The future of recess might be happening at Rockway Elementary School in Westchester. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports.

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The future of recess might be happening at Rockway Elementary School in Westchester. They call it the "Fitness Trail," a series of signs posted along the school’s hallways. Using an iPad, kids scan the quick response codes from the posters, and follow along to the short exercise video that appears on the screen.

“We’re very excited about it, because it really gets the children active when otherwise they would not be,” explains the principal, Debbie Saumell.

The Miami-Dade school district’s director for physical education agrees.

“And the kids are motivated,” said Dr. Jayne Greenberg. “It’s a different way to incorporate physical activity into the school day.”

The idea isn’t to replace the playground, it’s to find other ways to get kids active in between classes.

“Nothing will ever replace it, we want kids running around, it’s just an alternative to recess,” said Greenberg.

There will always be a place for hopscotch, for kids kicking a ball around, for climbing and jumping on the monkey bars. But when it’s raining, or for schools that don’t have much outdoor space, the video Fitness Trail concept works. Paid for by a federal grant, it’s designed for quick bursts of activity, anywhere from a couple of minutes up to 15 minutes at a time. Saumell said she sees an academic impact.

“Absolutely, just a few minutes of exercise really makes a world of difference,” Saumell said.

“We know physical activity causes an increase in cognitive processing, attention, and memory, and taking these breaks for physical activity actually enhances academic performance,” Dr. Greenberg said, explaining the science behind the concept.

Teachers can even call up the video on their smart boards and let the kids blow off steam in the classroom.

“It’s so nice to have some new, innovative things for the children to do, we’re trying to keep up with them,” Saumell said, as she watched fifth graders jumping up and down.

If the grownups want to keep up with the kids, they’d better get moving.

The district says half of Miami-Dade’s elementary schools have the Fitness Trail system now, and the rest will have it before the end of the school year.

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