Competences as a Solution to Global Problems​

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Physical Activities

Current and future health of your students

The current and future health of your students depends on various factors, but it also depends a lot on you. Most often, we think of the physical activity as free time and relaxation, and rarely as basic hygiene of the body from the inside and a necessary condition for the good health of students. Namely, the minimum amount of physical activity directly affects the current and future health of the child, i.e. the probability of suffering from various diseases in the future: obesity and high blood pressure, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, diseases of the bone and joint system (“Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Childhood and Adolescence Affects Future Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies“, Mintjens et al., 2018; “The Health Benefits of Muscular Fitness for Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis“, Smith et al., 2014).

What is the least you can do for the current and future health of your students?

In recent years, for a large number of children Physical Education (PE) lessons have become the only time when they have systematic physical activity of a prolonged duration. If we link this information with the information from the previous section about the serious health problems of people who don’t have sufficient amount of physical activity, it becomes clear that a physical education class is sometimes the only way to create a habit of regular physical exercise, which will preserve the health of some of your students in the future. Is there anything more important than this? We know that not all teachers are competent to teach physical education at the highest level. What is the minimum activity that every teacher should fulfil in the physical and health education class? The minimum is to have all children being physically active in every PE lesson.

Firstly, you should choose those activities that will keep the children breathless for most of the lesson. For example, if you play dodgeball, and the children hide in the corners of the field or are immediately hit and stand behind the line for the whole class, such a physical education class is not good. It is better to give some extra breathing activity to the affected child (e.g., run 5 laps around the court or 20 times back and forth the length of the hall) and then return to the game. Students need to be constantly reminded that the purpose of all these activities is to make them breathe faster (it’s great if you can teach them to measure their pulse, because it’s very interesting for every child).

Second, in addition to these physical activities for rapid breathing, you should do at least one strength exercise for legs (e.g., how many squats you can do), arms and torso (e.g., hold the starting push-up position for as long as possible) every class. For these exercises, you can count the seconds on each class to see which student will succeed in breaking their own record and try to praise them for breaking their own record, not for one being better than another).

What is the most you can do for the current and future health of your students?

If you want to be a great teacher in the implementation of physical and health education, you will have to put in a lot more effort, but the competence of your students to engage in physical activity in the future will be greater.

Firstly, when thinking about teaching physical and health education, the first requirement is that the students enjoy the physical activity you have planned for them. This is not always easy, because more often physically fit children are more motivated and enjoy different types of physical activity more. Think about which games will satisfy the condition that all children have the opportunity to enjoy and be good at the game. For example, if you play tag games where the faster students always have an advantage, you can modify the rules so that the slower students also have a chance not to be caught (e.g., there is a chance for them to use a protective move like crossing their arms three times, and then the students are safe, i.e., they cannot be caught). If they are caught, they must run in place until they reach a heart rate of 130 or more (if you have taught them how to measure their heart rate while looking at the clock placed in the PE gym), that is, when they cannot say more than 4-5 words in a sentence before they have to take a breath (if you have taught them this), the students return to the game. In this way, you teach them that the physical activity in which they are out of breath is exactly the one that is most important for their health.

Secondly, when students experience the physical activity as enjoyable and safe, it is easier to teach them new physical activities and skills, some of which may become their favourite ones (once being learned). Learning new skills is important in order to build the minimum that every teacher should do with their students on PE lessons. The skills that you should keep in mind when planning your lessons and extracurricular activities are: 1) skills with your own body (somersault, handstand, bridge, dance, playing hopscotch, jumping over obstacles, crawling, etc.), 2) skills with controlling object (jumping the rope, bouncing the ball with a hand/foot and passing, playing tennis, darts, juggling and pimping the ball, etc.). Apart from these activities that you can do in the gym or outside, take your students on a trip to nature sometimes and teach them the skill of climbing a tree, take them skating with the help of parents who know to skate, organize a hidden object search for them in nature with “signs on the side of the road”, which will follow… These beautiful experiences associated with the physical activity remain permanently etched in the children’s memory and allow them to strive to repeat such experiences, when they have the opportunity to independently choose activities that they consider important, good, pleasant and fulfilling.

Thirdly, competences for engaging in the physical exercise and exercise habits are acquired not only in physical education classes, but in every other moment. A great way for students to keep in mind the importance of adequate physical activity is the additional exercise we have planned for the students who participated in the project, which is a simple physical activity in the first two minutes of each of your classroom lessons (see details in the section of the website called “our physical activities”).

If you want a concrete example of a possible organization of a physical education lesson that will meet all the above criteria, it could look like this: at the beginning of the lesson, for at least 5 minutes, the students should be allowed to walk quickly in a smaller circle around the hall or to run slowly in a larger circle around the hall (they can alternate the two activities, if they like). They should learn to walk or run at a pace that will allow them to walk fast or run slowly for 5 minutes without stopping, with a desirable pulse measurement or the already explained determination of the number of words in a sentence that the students manage to say between two breaths. Shaping exercises do not always have to be the same (sometimes stretching exercises can be done, and sometimes strength exercises), and sometimes they can be done with music, or as mirror or mirror exercises with forbidden movement. After that, you should teach the students a skill (skipping the rope, dribbling, passing the ball, handling the hoop, etc.). Skills include everything that students have to try for a long time to succeed in performing. At the end of class, do some stretching.