CANTON, Ohio — As schools continue to battle growing mental health needs, studies show physical activities like boxing can reduce stress and improve mood, self-esteem and quality of life by 94%.
Now, Canton South High School students are stepping into the ring – or room – for their own one-of-a-kind boxing match against themselves.
“You go in there with a lot of things on your mind and you come out with a clear mind, like you’re just ready to go on to the next class and do whatever comes on with the day,” said Sophomore Tanner Bunish.
The school’s punching room is nestled on the second floor. Created by biomedical science teacher, Nancy Q. Miller, who secured a research grant from Case Western Reserve University, students are encouraged to use the room and “Take Ten.”
“Coming out of COVID, our students were struggling,” Miller shared. “When you take adolescents who are designed to start interacting with their peers and working towards adulthood, and you lock them up for a year and a half and you take that away, there’s a lot of struggles.”
Miller says the idea was sparked through care and treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Miller, whose sister was diagnosed with the disease, says therapeutic boxing is being used to help restimulate brain growth.
“When you’re active, you produce good hormones in your brain and it helps regulate the big feels whatever is going on; stress, anger [or] frustration…[So,] when the brain is able to get rid of some of the energy and produce those endorphins, [students] are going to be able to reset and process it,” she explained. “When you’re in the moment of crisis, you’re not making good decisions.”
'Take Ten' — How it works
As students continue to process internal battles and mental health challenges, or simply need a break to help focus during class, the punching room is now an option.
“We need to step back and look at these children, young adults, who have been through a lot, dealing with adults who have been through a lot, and we need to tend to their needs first. Then, we can get to the business of learning,” Miller said. “We are not going to teach a child who’s in crisis.”
As Miller explained, students can sign themselves out of study hall or get permission to step away from class to visit the punching room, to punch a hanging punching bag, in private, for ten minutes.
“I feel like it’s something that’s a personal approach for students and we really want the kids to learn ways to monitor and get past hard things,” Miller said.
Every visit is documented for evaluation and attendance purposes. Before starting, students scan a QR code to complete a 20-question survey consisting of questions like “are you feeling happy or sad? Do you feel anxious or peaceful?” Once their ten minutes conclude, students complete the survey once again.
“Seeing the change in how people went in and then came out, it was awesome,” said senior Makayla Szerokman. “I used it like three times in one week. It was very much needed… being able to get my own personal time with it and take my own anger out in a way that’s not bad; it was nice.”
While the punching room is not for everyone, a therapy dog will soon be available for students at school.