Early in the morning, before some people are even awake, a group of students at North Beach Elementary School in Miami Beach are ready to start the day running.
“Is everyone awake? Ok, and if you’re not, you will be soon, right?” barks out physical education teachers Michele Rivera-Pike. “Good job, and then run back as fast you can, sprint, sprint, sprint, sprint.”
Welcome to the North Beach Elementary Running Club.
“It’s not just running, we also do some sports activities, I make it fun,” explains Rivera-Pike. “It’s not just, come out here and run a bunch of laps.”
The kids, and a handful of parents, get a good sweat going before the first school bell rings.
“Some are here just to hang out with their friends, some are here to really improve their health and their wellness,” Rivera-Pike said. She started this program five years ago.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Liliana Sordo, who comes to run and exercise with her daughter, Angelina. “It promotes good health habits and it brings the family together.”
On this day, the kids not only ran laps, they also did relay races dribbling basketballs, and did a jumping-through-hula-hoops thing that must be seen, it defies written description.
“It makes them happy,” said Ashlee Cramer, who runs with her daughter, Jennifer. “You see all the kids afterwards; they’re all smiling and energized.”
“Every single one of these children here who have participated in our running club has improved their mile run aerobic capacity by folds, and that’s amazing,” Rivera-Pike said.
At this point, you might be thinking, does all that running and sweating before school help or hurt the kids once they’re inside the classroom?
“I think it helps them academically as well as physically,” explains the school’s principal, Dr. Alice Quarles. “Children have a lot of energy, they need to do something with it, and it can either be positive or negative, and this is a positive.”
The parents NBC6 spoke to all agree with the concept of the running club or they wouldn’t be out there sweating with their kids.
“I think any time you can get going early in the morning, get the blood pumping, it helps them for the rest of the day,” said David Wrubell, the only dad in the group on this day.
Research would appear to be on his side. Some studies show exercise can lead to increased cognitive ability, so the Running Club members might be sprinting, jogging, and jumping their way to better grades. They’re also receiving another reward: a field trip to a local Cross Fit gym.
“What better thing to do for a running club than to do something healthy?” says Rivera-Pike. “And they’re so excited, I’ve never had more parents want to come to a field trip, ever.”