Boys taking a running break between classes at Gateway Academy


Gateway believes in activities that get adolescents up and moving, blood flowing, and brains turned on. Movement is a force for good:  it primes the pump for learning, healing, and success. 

Thinking Outside The Gym

Targeted movement has been integrated into every aspect of Gateway’s approach. We weave it into our academic schedule by beginning the morning with a fitness class to prime the brain and scheduling academically challenging classes immediately following.

We incorporate yoga classes in the morning to support therapeutic efforts to reduce anxiety, depression, distractibility, and stress. We continue and solidify self awareness and therapeutic gains on the weekend by incorporating physical activities as diverse as hiking, snowshoeing, climbing, bouldering, skiing, and paddling.

The reason we’ve centered our approach uniquely and intentionally on movement is based on emerging discoveries in neuroscience. Increasingly, it is clear that exercise and movement, performed at specific times, optimizes learning and healing, calms and regulates emotion, and improves health and self-esteem.

Spark New Thinking

The Sparks approach is based on neuroscientific research by Dr. John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ratey found that movement and exercise “supercharges” our mental circuits, enabling us to grasp information more easily and retain it longer. While targeted exercise sparks new brain cells, movement and stimulation helps those cells grow, maximizing progress not just in the classroom, but in therapy as well. As a result, youth find themselves more open to expressing and resolving feelings, facilitating the healing process. Learn more about how we incorporate Sparks brain-based techniques across all of our programming.

“Movement accelerates the flow of key nutrients to the brain, which improves the ability to take in information, process it, remember it, and put it into context.” 

— Dr. John Ratey, M.D.

Fitness vs. Sports

Unlike traditional academic and settings that often overemphasize a team sports model of physical education, Gateway focuses on targeted fitness and participation instead. It’s the difference between competitive sports skill development — and working toward individual goals. It’s our therapeutic goal to offer our youth long-term tools for regulating their emotions and remaining calm and focused. The movement and fitness program we’ve created is intended not only to benefit teens while they are at Gateway, but also to pave the way for a lifetime of physical fitness, health, and wellbeing.

Overall, Gateway's Sparks approach to fitness teaches each youth how to monitor and maintain their own health and emotional wellbeing. These lessons are then integrated into therapy to help them develop a healthy lifestyle.

Rise and Shine All Day

Targeted fitness and yoga take place first thing every morning for one hour. Our fitness curriculum was developed based on the regimen outlined by Dr. Ratey in his ground-breaking research on exercise and the brain. Youth learn to get their heart rates up and monitor how long they stay in a target range.

Through focus on balance, strength, flexibility and mindfulness the Power Yoga practice primes students' bodies and minds, preparing them to take on the rest of their day grounded, aware and ready.

Morning fitness primes the brain. Afternoon movement and learning activities re-engage the brain and focus the mind to alleviate stress. These “brain breaks” augment energy and attention throughout the day.

"Spark breaks help with my attention span. I find that if I do a Sparks break in between exercises, I am able to come at the next question with a refreshed point of view. If I do not do this I have trouble concentrating."

—Gateway Youth