Inspirational Ideas: Fitness Suite Fun
One of the reasons we created this blog was to inspire our community to try innovative ways to boost your children’s mental well-being.
In this week's blog we look at how PE teachers can use a fitness suite to teach young people about the link between physical activity and mental well-being and apply trauma informed practice straight away.
Teaching this link is now statutory in RSHE and this creates great opportunities for PE teachers to have wider impact outside of Physical Education.
Our founder, Neil Moggan, talks through how he teaches his children at a secondary school in Norfolk this vital lesson.
I meet and greet my class being mindful of my face, voice and body so that all children feel psychologically safe by triggering their social engagement system. To do this I make sure I am smiling and welcome each child to the classroom with a high 5 or fist bump.
We will start the lesson by using the mental health continuum so that I can check in with where each member of my class is on that particular day depending on their individual situation and circumstances.
We can do this within 3 minutes by explaining the four categories on the continuum between thriving at one extreme, okay, starting to struggle, and then struggling and ill at the opposite end of the continuum.
I ask children to bow their heads, close their eyes and put their hand up when I mention criteria that matches how they are feeling today.
This gives children the opportunity to answer anonymously from their peers and saves them having to go to a member of staff to ask for help.
As I do this I make a mental note to check in during the lesson with those who are starting to struggle, or are struggling and ill.
Depending on how the conversation goes I may refer to our internal specialist counsellor, safeguarding team or I just let the child know that I’m here for them any time they would like to talk as an emotionally available adult.
I will recommend that any students who are struggling and ill should make an appointment to see their doctor.
My job as a frontline teacher is not to diagnose medical illness or act as a counsellor. It is to create a psychologically safe environment, teach them a range of self-care strategies, identify those children who might be struggling and help them get specialist support as soon as possible.
Intro to RISE
I then explain the following 4 different categories of activities that boost mental wellbeing in a variety of ways.
Repeaters are activities where we have repetitive movement over a prolonged period of time such as our cardio machines or skipping. Repetitive deep breathing calms the amygdala increasing their window of tolerance leading to calmer, more relaxed young people. It incorporates trauma informed practice and has shown to improve students’ relationships, behaviour, progress and attainment.
Inclusive team sports are ideal for boosting our mental wellbeing. We strive for social connection as human beings. When we feel included, working together towards a common goal and part of something bigger than ourselves our body releases oxytocin, one of the happiness chemicals which makes us feel loved.
Within the fitness suite, children buddy up with a partner and help motivate each other at the same time as checking for safe technique. They often develop a close bond as they train each other.
Many of our young people are struggling to deal with the pent-up anger and frustration over what they have lived through and missed out on over the last few years. We need to find a way for them to release this stress and anger in a safe and controlled manner. Physical activity can be a great vehicle to do this.
Stress busting activities such as our boxing mannequin ‘BOB’ and weight training are great ways to release that tension, improve their vagal tone and increase their window of tolerance.
Energising activities such as skipping trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin which boost our confidence and motivation and make young people feel energised and happier.
I will let my young people know that their exit ticket challenge will be to tell me the name of the category they enjoyed the most, what specific activity they completed from the category and how it improved their mental well-being.
Time to RISE
Children will then have the rest of the lesson to work out independently with a training partner to either use our cardio machines, weight training equipment, skipping ropes or Bob, our punching mannequin depending on their individual needs.
I will often work out alongside them to act as a role model and then explain how it has helped my own mental wellbeing. Working out alongside my young people provides a great opportunity to have individual conversations with those students who are struggling without their peers noticing.
We complete the plenary, checking progress against learning outcomes before finishing with our exit ticket task.
The exit ticket cements learning and gives me a chance to check in with every student, check their understanding and praise their effort being mindful of using my face, voice & body to convey that they are psychologically safe with me and that I am an emotionally available adult to them. Eye contact, a high 5, a smile and a compliment is a great way to do this.
The exit ticket task also creates a great opportunity to develop their oracy by encouraging them to plan their answer and communicating in detail without prompting from me.
Low-threat & highly enjoyable
Our children find this lesson highly enjoyable and it improves their mental and physical well-being at the same time.
Kieran, a student in year nine said “I really enjoy our RISE Up lessons. We learn how to improve our mental well-being and have a lot of freedom to choose how we do this in a safe, non-threatening environment. It has really helped me improve my behaviour around school. We all look forward to these lessons.”
Don’t worry if you haven’t got a fitness suite. This lesson can be adapted for a sports hall or field.
Create a circuit that involves body weight exercises such as press ups and tricep dips. Include stations that involve repeatable activities such as running, walking, shuttle runs or skipping.
Encourage young people to work with a training partner to access the benefits of being part of an inclusive team. Add in some ways to make the session fun and your children will have a great time.
Want to know more
If you would like more information on how you can deliver the mental health continuum task then why not sign up for our Taster RISE Up course.
Our online taster course includes lesson one and two of the full RISE Up programme and will help take your existing identification process from reactive to proactive within three minutes.
To receive your personalised login, click on the button and complete our 1 minute form.
Make a great day!