The winter weather is no excuse for no exercise at one local elementary school. Students at Horizon Elementary School in Holt are logging miles of walking, before the first class of the day even starts.
Horizon Elementary calls the program the Winter Breakfast Club, and kids voluntarily get to school early to walk on the school's indoor track. About 135 students have come at some point to walk in the mornings.
Horizon's principal says it's about more than physical fitness - when kids exercise before school, there are lasting, positive effects throughout the day.
Sixty to eighty kids typically walk in the Winter Breakfast Club. Jennifer Strandberg brings her three kids to walk before school every morning. She says it's a great way for students to get a chance to exercise at the start of their day.
"They like to come, they're always excited," Strandberg said. "We have to get up earlier and they never complain about getting up."
Keeping track of their miles helps keep the kids motivated. The students get a punch on their card for every lap they make in the gym.
"W made these cards," said Jen Miller, the parent organizer. "Twenty-four punches are on it. When they finish a card, that equals one mile. After five cards, they get a token. After 25 miles they get a bracelet."
As a group, the students have logged more than 800 miles. Principal David Hornak says exercising before school translates to good things throughout the day.
"It's really, really amazing," said Hornak. "We have faculty members that will ask us, 'Was so-and-so at the breakfast club today? I can tell they're much calmer, they're ready to learn, they're more engaged.'"
Because Horizon has seen such positive results from their program, they hope it encourages other schools to create before-school fitness opportunities.
"Our hope would be that other schools look at this and think, 'This is something we could do at our school,'' Miller said. "So that in the winter months kids have a way of getting more physical activity."
As the weather starts getting warmer, Horizon Elementary will take their before-school walking outside. In the spring, the school will also start up its "Walking School Bus" program again. Parents volunteer to walk groups of kids to school, giving them another opportunity to get exercise in.
Horizon Elementary clearly puts importance on developing a healthy lifestyle for their students, but Principal Hornak says it's also about engaging the kids in the community. They students are participating in this area's winter warm-up challenge with all the miles they log.