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School Wellness

***Please see the bottom of this page for attached resources for schools***

The Importance of Schools in Promoting and Enhancing Children's Health 

Teachers, staff, and school administrators are important community health partners and role models for students!  They can play a great role in enhancing student learning and health by incorporating daily physical activity into the school day and increasing accessibility to healthy snacks and healthy school meals.  Many schools in the county are already incorporating daily physical activity and healthy foods into the school day and we commend them for  their wonderful work!  Our public health professionals are excited to work with schools in their continued efforts promote student health.

Why Daily Physical Activity in Schools?

--->Physical Activity has so many benefits, including increased learning capability!  
  • Stronger academic achievement 
  • Improved math, reading, and writing test scores 
  • Increased concentration 
  • More positive attitude about school 
  • Better school attendance 
  • Reduced disruptive behavior 
  • Decreased stress and depression 
  • Increased self esteem 
  • Enhanced sense of a team/camaraderie 
  • Prevention and reduction of overweight and obesity 
  • Prevention of other chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Alleviated symptoms of attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety 
  • Stronger muscles and flexibility; stronger lungs
                      ....and Physical Activity is Fun!

Physical Activity "Bursts" in the Classroom

Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.  Physical activity bursts can help!  Physical activity bursts are short episodes of exercise and physical activity.  They can be done a few minutes at a time during the school day - for example, teachers can lead the class in 6- or 10- minute activity bursts in the morning, between lessons, and/or after lunch.   

Ideas for Fun Movement in the Classroom

Marching, dancing to music or fitness DVDs, hopping, stretching, yoga, knee lifts, jumping in place, jumping jacks, leg squats, walking, pretending to be different animals, wiggling, pretending to swim or do other sports-like movements

YouTube Has Many Videos and Music to Use
Try searching for
“activity bursts in the classroom" 
“Instant Recess” 
“indoor recess”
 “Just Dance Disney” 
 “Just Dance Kids”
Some examples of videos include:

Teacher demonstration (3:37):
Sports Galore (4:28):
Soccer Instant Recess (10:36):
Football Instant Recess 12:47):
Basketball Instant Recess (9:37): 
Boxing Instant Recess (12:56):
Professional Athletes Instant Recess (9:44):
FriarFit (baseball themed) (11:15):


Instant Recess Nutrition Zombies (10:22):
New Orleans Style Dance Instant Recess


Hip Hop Instant Recess (11:04):
Native American Instant Recess (10:44):
Reggae Instant Recess (12:21):
Wobble dance (4:11): 
African Dance Lift Off (10:03):

Just Dance 

Disney Dance Party (7:58):
Calling All Monsters (2:58): 
I Am a Gummy Bear (2:54):
The Hamster Dance Song (2:18): 
Get the Sillies Out (1:34): 

Other "Instant Recess"-Type Videos

Zenergy Instant Recess Break (12:90): 

Simple Gifts Instant Recess (15:53): 

Ready, Set, Let's Move! Chinese Zodiac Lift Off Video (11:18):

Let's Move! WINCART's Pacific Islander 10-minute activitybreak (11:54):                

Moving with Tradition – Instant Recess (13:00): v=7wp2aGliB1E&list=PL184EA38781F1941D

Other Videos for Younger Children
     Exercise Videos for Kids/PBS Kids
      “Fit Factor Kids Exercize”
    “Kids Exercise Video Song”
      “Fitness Blender Kids Workout”
      “Huli Huli Chicken - Family dance exercise for kids,                      parents and grandparents”
     “A Cosmic Kids Yoga adventure!”
     “I Can Do It” by Patty Shukla
    “Jump Children’s Song” by Patty Shukla

--> Also, try the Mid-Hudson Library system for music and    DVDs

                Tips for Success 
                • Try movement first thing in the morning and after lunch to get students energized, and incorporate movement during transition times during the school day
                • Incorporate movement into curricula (see above "Resources for Physical Activity Bursts")
                • Use movement right before a favorite activity when students may be feeling restless 
                • Utilize movement for all children when students are stressed or there are behavioral problems – involve all students in the activity 
                • Have a group of 3-4 students lead the class in their favorite activities and rotate the groups throughout the week 
                • Teachers are excellent role models, so for best results, teachers and students can do the physical activity bursts together 
                • Track minutes of daily physical activity on posters or bulletin boards so students can see their accomplishments 
                • Ideas for transitioning back to classwork - have materials ready to go for the next educational lesson for an easy transition; use hand clapping method or other preferred method to re-focus students; or, try a cool-down exercise (see ABC for Fitness manual for ideas)
                • Remember to have fun!
                • Involve parents/guardians - invite them to see the physical activity in the classroom and participate in a "buddy" exercise program with their children; have "active" open houses and do physical activity with students and their parents; highlight physical activity and healthy eating during Family Nights; and send newsletters home to highlight your activities.  Another idea is to create a program where children exercise at home with their parents/guardians and then the parents/guardians sign a form saying that they exercised together...then the child brings the form to school on a Friday and gets a small prize or earns points towards the school store         

                Other Ways to Increase Physical Activity in Schools
                • Before- and after- school physical activity opportunities (ideas include playing games, playing sports, dancing, using hula hoops) 
                • Start the day with a school-wide morning physical activity 
                • More active recess 
                • Walking and biking to school 
                • Have the whole school go on a walking break together 
                • Increase activity in Physical Education classes 
                • Allow students and their families access to facilities before and after school hours and during vacations 
                • Encourage parent involvement 
                • Host school-wide special events, such as field days, walking programs, and physical activity-related fundraisers 
                • For secondary school students, allow the option to take a walk during study hall time and allow the opportunity to engage in intramural sports during lunchtime 

                Healthy Foods

                Physical activity is just one part of the solution. Healthy school foods are also important in promoting brain health and in the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases. We can provide assistance with healthy nutrition tips and guidance when enhancing school wellness policies.  Please contact us at (518) 828-3358, ext. 1326 or for more information.

                For ideas about healthy snacks, please visit:
                Click here for great online nutrition lessons from Whole Kids Foundation.

                For some downloadable nutrition resources, please visit our "Ten Tips - for Nutrition and Exercise" webpage.

                Here are some fun family recipes with downloadable recipe cards.

                For information about the Eat Smart NY nutrition education program through Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties, please visit or call (518) 828-3346.

                Image from

                How Exercise Can Transform our Schools

                How Exercise Can Transform our Schools - John Ratey, MD

                "Exercise Improves Learning on Three Levels

                 First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation;

                second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one anotherwhich is the cellular basis for logging in new information;

                third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.” from John J. Ratey, MD

                      Resources for Physical Activity:

                Soccer Instant Recess

                Hip Hop Instant Recess

                New Orleans Instant Recess

                PBS Kids Exercise

                   We are here to help!

                     The Columbia County Department of Health can offer: 
                • Support and technical assistance to your school in increasing physical activity before, during, and after the school day
                • Assistance with incorporating daily physical activity into school-wide wellness policies 
                • Healthy snack/nutrition tips and assistance with enhancing wellness policies with regard to healthy foods in schools  
                • Assistance with involving and educating parents 
                    Please contact Victoria McGahan, Public Health Educator at the Columbia County Department of Health at (518) 828-3358, ext. 1326 or 

                    Success Stories
                • Albany County has had many successes with their “Movers and Shakers” program (for physical activity bursts in the classroom)
                • Overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers and students -- Notably:
                  • “It really helped keep kids on task.”
                  • “Yes, increased activity equals increased on-task behavior.
                  • 89% of students reported feeling better after the activity!
                • Albany County has been able to enhance school wellness policies to include daily physical activity in all classrooms of many of their schools 
                • Please see their implementation guide attached at the bottom of the page

                "Recapturing Recess"

                Poem by Dr. Toni Yancey

                Now I know

                Y'all can remember 
                The recess bell 

                The wave of exhilaration 
                The sigh of relief 
                The sheer release 

                The transformation 
                Of fidgeting 
                Into linear motion 

                Raise up your hands 
                If you can remember 
                All that pent-up energy 

                Into air and space 
                And wind and sunshine 

                And if you can recapture 
                Even a little of the joy 
                Of unbridled movement 

                Then just maybe 
                There's hope 
                For the couch potatoes 

                Those of you 
                Too worn down 
                Even to fidget 

                Think you need rest and food 
                But you toss and turn in bed 
                And meals don't really sit well 

                These bodies just weren't meant 
                For so much sittin' and standin' 
                And so little recess

                                               Image from the Center for Science in the Public Interest

                   For more information and resources on physical activity,    nutrition, and obesity prevention:
                    Please see:

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