PE Sport and Physical Activity in Scotland and beyond

Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Improves Brain Function: Just One of Many Claims We Hold Dear in PE

Posted by drilly on June 8, 2008

I recently read this article which suggests findings that most PE teachers have held true for decades. Exercise and fitness has much wider benefits than weight management and physical health. The article states:

“It turns out that physical activity actually turns on hormonal support systems in your brain. The activation of these systems strengthens brain circuits that you already have and helps you develop new ones.

Exercise causes a rise in several growth factors in the brain that are responsible for helping brain cells survive and divide into new brain cells, or neurons. Only a couple of brain regions can produce new neurons and exercise increases the amount and rate of neuron production in these regions.

The hippocampus plays a critical role in learning, memory and attention. Exercise induces new neuron growth in the hippocampus and improves performance on several types of cognitive tasks.

Folks that exercise regularly know that they are much more capable of handling stress throughout their day than they are when they don’t exercise. This is, in part, because exercise and stress have opposite effects on the hippocampus and exercise improves your ‘buffer’ to handle the stress.

Studies also show that in addition to exercise’s protective role, it is a valuable therapeutic tool for brain function. Fitness training improves cognitive functions relative to planning, scheduling, task coordination and attention. ”                                                               Originally uploaded by

I can relate to many of the ideas suggested in the article I know how great I feel after a doing some enjoyable physical activity and the release I get form a hard physical work out. I only wish the article sighted some of the research that it alludes to so I can confirm the veracity of the claims.

This also tends to be the problem with physical education we make a number of claims about the benefits of the subject  most of which are anecdotal and founded on our intuition, observation and belief that it is inherently good. However that is normally as far as it goes research is limited especially in Scotland. Some of us are impassioned about promoting our subject and feel we are having to fight to secure a significant proportion of time in schools curricula. However we have limited proof of the benefits other than the anecdotal. What we need is hard evidence to back up the claims we make about the benefits of PE.

A small minority of enlightened teachers have done or are starting to do some small scale research in their schools. Practitioner based research has the potential to be a powerful medium to inform our colleagues but would it have any standing with the Government or Local Authorities? I would be interested to hear from any colleagues who have or are undertaking any research relevant to PE in Scottish schools.



Posted in Education, fitness, Health, Physical Activity, Physical Education, Research, Scottish Government, Teaching | 1 Comment »

Non Competitive play leads to more Physical Activity but is it less enjoyable?

Posted by drilly on June 6, 2008

Here is an interesting article that raises questions about the organisation of PE and physical activity for children. The research shows that children who were involved in non competitive games were more active than children who were involved in competitive games. However as you dig deeper you discover that the competitive games were all elimination games e.g. when you lose, or are caught or make a mistake you are out of the game (ie not being active) as opposed to the non competitive games where there was no elimination. I wonder what the results would have shown if the competitive games had been non elimination games?

What was also interesting is that the children were surveyed for self-efficacy, enjoyment, and peer victimisation following both types of games. Results showed that enjoyment was higher following competitive games, although enjoyment scores were high in non-elimination games as well. There were no reports of peer victimisation in either set of games, but were significant increases in self-efficacy after both sets.

The key messages for me are that competition is important for enjoyment, if handled correctly, however we need to promote non elimination games to ensure the highest levels of activity as well. I have expressed my views on competition before in a previous post. The study also highlights the positive benefits from activity within the childrens affective domain and the positive benefits to mental health.

There is also a link within the article to another interesting article ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT HIGHER AMONG MOST ACTIVE KIDS Vigorous Physical Activity Linked to Better Grades The research shows that examination of activity and physical education (PE) compared to academic achievement shows the most active kids more often have better grades.

This begs the question if PE and physical activity (don’t get me started on the difference between them) can have such positive and wide ranging benefits and in light of our appalling obesity and health record in Scotland why are we still having to fight so hard to justify it having a significant time allocation in the curricula of many learning establishments!

Posted in fitness, Health, obesity, Physical Activity, Physical Education, Research | Leave a Comment »

Human Kinetics News letters

Posted by drilly on May 25, 2008

Human Kinetics UKPE April Newsletter contains some interesting articles and references to resources summary below

·  International Dance Day discount!

·  Help your pupils learn essential social skills through character-building activities

·  Achieve maximum fun and fitness in PE lessons with new physical education resource

·  Parents ‘too scared to let children play outside’

·  £5.5m plan to inspire new generation of Billy Elliots in schools

·  Obese children to die younger than parents

·  Labour’s 187 broken promises on playing field sales

·  Heart disease risk ‘increases for children who are inactive’

·  School-gate fast food ban urged

·  More children are watching junk-food adverts despite ban

There is also lots of lots of interesting reading and resources identified in the April FitNews the April Academic News the May FitNews and the May Academic News. Happy reading

Posted in Dance, Education, fitness, Health, obesity, Physical Activity, Physical Education, Research, Resources, Sport, Teaching | Leave a Comment »

Health and Wellbeing the outcomes are here.

Posted by drilly on May 14, 2008

The CfE Health and Wellbeing outcomes were released yesterday and can be down loaded here

Don’t forget to download the”Health and wellbeing for all” paper as well as the actual outcomes. The following section is reproduced from the paper and sets out the current position on PE in Scotland. It seems pretty positive to me.

“Physical education provides the foundation for the development of concepts and skills necessary for participation in physical activity. It should inspire and challenge children and young people through opportunities to experience the joy of skilled, creative and efficient movement and to develop interpersonal skills and positive attitudes to active living. This should give children and young people an important foundation for engaging in physical activities and sport, in preparation for a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
While Curriculum for Excellence gives both freedom and responsibility to those planning and delivering the curriculum, the Scottish Government expects schools to continue to work towards the provision of two hours of good quality PE for each child every week. This commitment will be reflected in Building the Curriculum 3: A framework for learning and teaching. Physical activity and sport will take place in addition to planned PE sessions, at break times and lunchtimes and beyond the school day. Taken together, the experiences and outcomes in physical education, physical activity and sport are intended to establish the pattern of daily physical activity which, research has shown, is most likely to lead to sustained physical activity in adult life.”

Health and wellbeing for all 2008

This sentiment is echoed in this Government news release

In my opinion the Health and wellbeing outcomes are the most important set of outcomes to be released, and not just the physical but the whole range as in my mind health and wellbeing is central to the quality of our lives and is a precursor for effective learning and development.

Along side the HWb outcomes the Government has also published the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Scotland Act: Health promotion guidance for local authorities and schools. This can be downloaded here This guidance supports local authorities and schools, and managers of grant-aided schools, in working with partner agencies to meet the duty to ensure that all schools are health promoting, as set out in the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007

Posted in CfE, Education, fitness, Health, Physical Activity, Physical Education, Scottish Government, Sport, Teaching | 1 Comment »

Using Nintendo Wii to combat obesity

Posted by drilly on January 29, 2008

independent.pngInteresting article in The Independent about schools in Worcestershire using the Wii console to promote physical activity. Read the full article

Posted in computer games, fitness, Health, ICT in PE, obesity, Physical Activity, Physical Education | Leave a Comment »

Physical Activity, Exercise and Learning through the Lifecourse Conference workshop summaries online now

Posted by drilly on November 16, 2007


I attended this conference at the end of October and it was thoroughly enjoyable and informative. The workshop summaries and PowerPoint’s are available online here. There should also be podcasts of the main presentations and panel discussions to follow.

Posted in conference, fitness, Health, Physical Activity | Leave a Comment »

PE Not Fit for Purpose

Posted by drilly on October 16, 2007


Last weeks TESS reports on the research of Dr Suzanne Groves from the University of Chichester School of Physical Education. According to Dr Groves research “Physical Education and Obesity Issues” PE fails many overweight and obese pupils as their experiences during the subject discourage and alienate them. The research found that PE often reinforces their feelings of inadequacy and abnormality. This is compounded by teachers and classmates attitudes towards them and bullying during PE lessons. I was saddened to read this and that obese pupils claim “they often feel they do not have the right to participate in PE even when they enjoy physical activity”

Dr Groves suggests we should provide classes which cater specifically for the needs of the overweight. My initial response to this was “no way” would it not stigmatise these pupils further to be singled out and put together in the “fat class” or whichever other derogatory term their mindless peers would attach to the group.

Then I stepped back and thought about it . PE is a very public experience and failure is on view for everyone to see whereas in maths it need only be between the teacher and the pupil. Therefore feelings of inadequacy can be reinforced if failure in PE is handled in the wrong manner. There is no doubt that being overweight or obese can have a negative impact on performance in PE in many situations and thus impact on the pupils learning experience. 

Maybe obesity and overweight issues should be viewed as a barrier to learning in PE in the same way as reading difficulties are viewed as a barrier to learning in other subjects. When these barriers are identified in other subjects support is provided on an individual basis and depending on the individuals needs their timetable can be modified and they may receive additional targeted support in specialised teaching situations.

Should we not do the same with obese and overweight pupils? Provide them with specialised targeted support to help them overcome their barriers and be able to progress towards an active and healthier life. Provide them with additional lessons that provide a safe, supportive environment where they can overcome the physical and undoubtedly emotional barriers that would allow them to access more of the curriculum.

I am not advocating removing these children from PE and giving them a different experience. I am advocating targeted, specific additional lessons that supplement their mandatory PE lessons. I am also not necessarily advocating that these additional lesson should be solely the preserve of the PE department. Obesity is a complex issue and should have a multi agency approach that covers not only physical but also emotional, social and nutritional health. Though physical activity and the PE department should be at the heart of it.

Why? Well lets face it there is the health and mortality issues from being overweight this should possibly be reason enough to be provided with additional support not many people develop the same range and frequency of symptoms that impacts on their health and longevity from not being able to read! Not that I am suggesting that being unable to read is not an important issue.

Dr Groves highlights another reason ” the demands being placed on the profession are sufficiently diverse as to result in teachers being unable to address the specific needs of these children within PE lessons”. This however is not an excuse to ignore the children facing these difficulties we must ensure that what we teach is differentiated and allows these pupils to access PE at a level which is appropriate to their ability. However we must handle this sensitively without inadvertently drawing more attention on to these potentially self conscious pupils.

Perhaps there is a case for streaming in PE so that pupils of similar ability and fitness levels work together and have content that is tailored to their needs. This is something that Stonelaw Academy have trialed. Stonelaw Fitness sections

The Guardian article Schools told to tackle teenage obesity crisis 15/10/07 highlights some shocking statistics. An official study to be published on Wednesday will predict that half the population could be obese within the next 25 years. The Foresight report is also expected to say the epidemic will cost the country £45bn a year by 2050 if the loss of productivity from people who suffer obesity-related health-care problems is added to the cost of treating them.

If this was attributed to a literacy or numeracy problem I wonder how much money would be thrown at it to support schools in making a difference?

“Schools should be doing more to convince teenage girls to take part in sport including scrapping “embarrassing” gym kits and offering alternative activities such as Frisbee and yoga sessions in an effort to halt the growing obesity crisis, the secretary of state for families Ed Balls has told the Guardian”. He has also called for parents to help to tackle the issue as well.

I think schools, PE departments and in deed parents in Scotland could take a much more proactive role, but not without more funding and support to do so. This would require some major investment but it would still be a fraction of the estimated £45bn per year to deal with treating the symptoms of obesity. A worthwhile investment? Undoubtedly in my opinion but I wont hold my breath waiting for it.

Posted in fitness, obesity, Physical Activity, Physical Education | Leave a Comment »

National PE Conference Body Combat and Cheer Leading

Posted by drilly on September 27, 2007

This week I had the privilege of watching two young enthusiastic and motivated PE ma.jpgteachers delivering alternative activities with groups of pupils. David Taylor at ST Columba’s School in Perth introduced me to the energetic and exciting fitness activity of body combat. An exercise and fitness activity that uses martial arts kicks, punches, blocks, jumps, and turns set to high tempo funky beats. I thought it was brilliant it was engaging it was energetic and what a fitness work out.

Kelly Whittington at Graeme High in Falkirk blew away all my misconceptions aboutcheer.jpg Cheer Leading. What I saw was absolutely fantastic, not a pom-pom or ra-ra in sight. What I saw was a dynamic activity incorporating lifts, jumps, stunts and balances taught in such an enthusiastic and engaging manner that all the girls gave of their all. As well as developing complex technical skills, it was an incredibly demanding workout for the girls. The girls were all shapes and sizes and levels of ability but everyone worked to their full capabilities and were challenged to do so by an effervescent committed teacher.

You can see both these teachers working with their pupils in the practical workshops at the National PE Conference on the 19th December at Stirling University and Management Centre

Posted in Alternative Activities, conference, fitness, Physical Activity, Physical Education | Leave a Comment »

Fit for reporting

Posted by drilly on September 11, 2007

Many schools have been profiling pupils fitness for a number of years but few do much with the information. Notable exceptions have been Staff at Stonelaw Academy who have used the information to form the basis of a study into changes in pupils levels of fitness over a number of years. They also use the information as part of their approach to streaming of pupils to offer more targeted and appropriate PE lessons.

I read with interest the article in last weeks TESS about Wallace Hall Academy who are informing parents of the pupils  fitness levels. After testing, each pupil receives an individualised “fitness profile” showing his or her results against the yearly average. Parents can read about their child’s fitness in school reports, next to the assessments of progress in traditional subjects. The fitness profiles include tips to improve fitness levels and parents are asked to help implement these. Parents, pupils and staff all seem to responding positively to the initiative and benefits are being noticed. The next stage is to incorporate monitoring of the pupils diet and nutrition.

Posted in fitness, Physical Education | 2 Comments »