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School program encourages students to hit the gym when struggling to concentrate

Students at Confederation Park Community School in Saskatoon can leave class any time to burn off some energy at the gym.

The school has a "body break" program geared at helping kids concentrate by encouraging different kinds of physical activity.

The idea is to "reset and reintegrate back into the classroom," said physical education teacher Jeff Marshall, who started the program.

About 30 students at the elementary school use body breaks regularly. Many children come at least once a day.

Body break

Three students take part in the body break program. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The gymnasium looks like a typical fitness studio, with pull-up bars, weights and big tires to flip over. 

Marshall describes his approach as "CrossFit meets Montessori." 

He gives students different options for a workout circuit, instead of typical sports-based gym activities. For some students, that includes yoga and dance; for others, it means weights and interval training.


Some of the equipment students use in the gym. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

'No right or wrong way'

Inside the door of the gym is a bin of training shoes, to ensure every student has proper workout gear.

Marshall emphasizes that the space is all about empowering students.

When a child comes for a body break, they decide what kind of workout to do.

"There's no right or wrong way to do fitness," said Marshall.

Crossfit equipment

Tire flips and box jumps are among the exercises the students will do in the gym. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

'Relieves anger that you're feeling'

Shyla Schwab started her body break by swinging on the rings hanging from the pull-up bars. The 12-year-old visits the gym every morning for about 15 minutes.

After her time on the rings, she ran over to the weighted balls.

"Sometimes it relieves anger that you're feeling," said Schwab.

Shyla Schwab

Shyla Schwab uses the body break program every morning. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

Rachelle Cole, Schwab's educational assistant, has been bringing Schwab to the gym for body breaks for more than six months.

"She started because she comes to school with a lot of energy; [it's] really hard for her to sit in her desk," said Cole.

After a couple of months of body breaks, Cole noticed a dramatic difference.

"She started to excel," said Cole.

"People in the school say, 'We see she's in class a lot more. She's calm.'"

body break

An example of a body break form. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

At the beginning and end of a body break, students fill out a small form to indicate how they're feeling.

Schwab circled the big smiley face.

"[I feel] not angry and not sad — like, happy," she said with a grin.

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