Health & Environment Schools

North End’s Eliot School Celebrates Four Years in BIDMC’s Walking Club

News release from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on a milestone with the Eliot School walking program:

North End’s Eliot School Celebrates Four Years in
BIDMC’s Walking Club

Students say walking helps them concentrate better

If you have questions about the health benefits of walking, just ask any middle school student at the Eliot School in Boston’s North End. Students and teachers have logged hundreds of miles together since BIDMC’s Walking Club launched there in 2010. The program is now celebrating its fourth year.

“Walking is good for your heart,” says one student. “It’s good for your mind,” shouts another. Still another adds, “It helps reduce stress.” Chad, a tall 8th grader says it plain and simple, “Walking is good exercise.” This is his third year in the Walking Club.

“Walking also burns calories and helps your bones and muscles stay healthy,” Joan Drevins, PT, MS tells the students. She’s the Education Program Coordinator in Rehabilitation Services at BIDMC. “It’s really one of the best things we can do for our bodies and our brains.”

After Drevin’s pep talk and a little stretching with Red Sox mascot Wally, the Green Monster, the students head out for a two mile walk along Commercial Street in the North End en route to Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.

Beyond the obvious physical health benefits, research has shown that walking can help students feel less stressed, feel better about themselves and feel more ready to learn in school. A Danish study published in 2010 reported that students who walked to school, rather than arriving by bus or car, performed significantly better on tasks involving concentration. A study out of University of Buffalo medical school, also published in 2010, showed that students who walked were less anxious about being tested. The study authors concluded that exercise, “may dampen children’s cardiovascular reactivity when confronted with cognitive stressors during the school day.”

Eliot School principal Traci Walker Griffith agrees. “Students have shared with us that when they exercise, they can concentrate better in class,” she says.

Griffith is thrilled to have a free resource, like the Walking Club for her students. With no gym, the school has had to think of fun and creative ways to help their kids get more exercise. “Partnering with the Beth Israel Deaconess Walking Club fits with our overall mission where health and wellness are an important part of a well-rounded education,” she says.

As a member of BIDMC’s Walking Club, each student receives two pedometers, one for him or herself and one to share with a family member or friend to encourage walking outside of school.

Elizabeth, a 6th grader at the Eliot School is having fun tracking her steps with the new pedometer. At the halfway mark, she takes a look and confirms that she’s walked a mile. “I plan to walk a lot this summer too,” she says. “I like to walk because you get to enjoy the fresh air, see different things along your way and talk to friends.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

The BIDMC health care team includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.

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