Exercising Kids’ Bodies and Brains

Lesson #1 for Kids: Get Moving

What does it take for you to get firing on all cylinders in the morning? How about jumping jacks, freeze tag, and other blood-pumping activities? Thanks to BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success), that is the way a growing number of school children in Massachusetts start the day.

“Morning is critical. It’s when you jumpstart a child’s brain and optimize them for a day of learning,” explains Kathleen Tullie, founder and executive director of BOKS. “Kids should be running around and playing before they’re asked to sit down for six or seven hours,” she adds. “In fact, we ALL should.”


BOKS is a free, before-school physical activity and nutrition program designed to get children moving in the morning and get their brains ready for a day of learning. In 2015, Blue Cross helped launch the program in eight elementary schools throughout Holyoke and Springfield. The grants funded stipends for two trainers per school as well as program equipment. In addition, Blue Cross vice president of corporate citizenship Jeff Bellows is a member of the BOKS advisory board.

Studies show physical activity supports children’s physical, social, and emotional development, while kids who do not establish exercise habits at a young age can suffer health consequences well into adulthood.

Kathleen started BOKS in 2009 after being inspired by Dr. John Ratey’s book Spark, which explores the connection between exercise and the brain. Today BOKS is in more than 1,500 schools in 48 states and six countries. Evaluations by the National Institute on Out Of School Time (NIOST) (2011-2014) and Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. (2015) found that BOKS positively affects the intensity and duration of physical activity, body composition (body fat percentage), nutrition knowledge, test scores, executive functioning of the brain, and school attendance.

Our students love starting the day with fun exercise. Their teachers and parents agree: BOKS is great for our school!

– Margaret D. Thompson, Principal of Kensington International School, Springfield, Mass.

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