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Nov 12, 2019

by Natalie Edwards '14

When you live at school, it can be tempting to spend entire afternoons and full days inside the school gates, moving from bedroom to dining hall to classroom to library.

November has just begun, the temperature is dropping, and its all too easy to bundle up and stay put. One year ago, as the mornings grew colder and the daylight hours dwindled, we, as a boarding faculty, noticed that we were all starting to slow down. And we weren't the only ones. It was October, and we noticed that many of our students had stopped venturing out for afternoon walks, stopped attending sports practices, and started to take the elevator just a little too often. In response, we launched the Boarding BeFit initiative.

We all know that being physically active keeps us in shape, but exercise offers us more than that: it helps us destress, builds our confidence, teaches teamwork, and even improves our sleeping habits. More than 80% of teenagers do not engage in adequate daily physical activity (World Health Organization 2018). The World Health Organization recommends that children aged five to eighteen perform at least sixty minutes of moderate to intense physical activity daily. Boarding BeFit is designed to encourage all students to stay active, both those who might participate in sports daily as well as those who are less inclined to stay active. We offer an array of fitness opportunities both before and after school. Three days a week, students can join Mrs. Johnson for 6:30 am runs in the center. An early riser myself, I find morning runs to be not only great exercise but also a rare opportunity to explore Rome's historic center before the rest of the city wakes up. For those who prefer to exercise in the evenings, we offer a variety of nighttime exercise classes. On Mondays, a teacher from a local yoga studio leads an hour-long yoga session in the auditorium from 8:30 to 9:30 pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students have the option to participate in a guided meditation or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class. For those who prefer the play soccer, volleyball, or basketball, the outdoor courts are open weekday evenings from 9 to 9:45 pm.

We created the BeFit program because we recognize that while many boarders regularly participate in the afterschool sports program; for others, exercising before school or after dinner works better with their busy schedules. To encourage participation, every time a student joins an activity, they earn a point. As students accrue B Fit points throughout the year, they become eligible for prizes, including gift certificates to a local vegan restaurant and workout apparel.

Now in our second year of the program, we are proud to proclaim BeFit a success. This year, we hope to inspire even more students to make physical activity a part of their daily routine.

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Natalie Edwards double majored in Art History and Archaeology and Economics. Natalie attended St. Stephen's as a boarder in 11th grade, and later returned to Bologna for a semester abroad during university. Natalie is fluent in Italian and is currently a Residential Assistant in the St. Stephen's Boarding Department and a Communications Office Assistant.