A simple routine helps youth most at risk to increase school attendance

Students involved in Fitness Beyond Barriers in Griffith attend school up to 94% more since taking part in the program.

The program, which has been running for a few years, continues to positively affect the lives of local youth by helping them maintain a weekly routine of keeping fit, attending school and taking care of their health.

Run by the Griffith Local Area Command, in partnership with Youth Off The Streets, the program essentially involves picking up 16 to 17 school kids at 6am, three times a week for a morning gym session, breakfast and school drop-off. It is targeted at youth at risk in the wider community including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school children, although it is not specific to those groups.

Fitness Beyond Barriers has been running with the help of local Aboriginal Medical Service fitness instructors and Youth Off The Streets’ Youth Worker, Corey McKenzie. Cory has been mentoring young people to complete fitness regime, Cory also picks up young people in the morning, then takes them to the Youth Off The Streets’ centre for breakfast before dropping young people to school.

Early morning fitness

Early morning fitness

When asked about what makes the program so successful in getting students to attend school Corey said, “I think it’s the stability of it and the actual fitness side of it. A lot of them don’t attend because they might sleep in until 10am and then think, oh well…and they’ll go down town. But because they’re up at 6am, by the time 9am comes they’re fresh because they’ve been awake for three hours! They have their heart rate up, they have breakfast, so there’s nothing to stop them, they’re just very lively after that.”

The Dieticians Association of Australia recommends that children eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Research has shown that doing so helps to maintain a healthy body weight, it provides energy and leads to higher intakes of essential nutrients; and it improves alertness, concentration, mental performance, mood and memory.

Exercising in the morning has similar benefits to eating a healthy breakfast. Those who exercise early say they have improved alertness, concentration and mood throughout the day. Exercise is most known for its ability to reduce stress as the mind releases endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in the body.

Teachers at local Griffith high schools have also mentioned that participants in the program are less disruptive in class. In response to this Cory said it comes down to improved fitness, alertness and eating breakfast before going to school.

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