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May 2, 2024
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Promoting Physical Activity in Schools: Moving more for mental health

It’s no secret that today, our children and young adults are spending more time on screens and less time being physically active. In the blog post, we explore practical ideas for promoting movement and measuring attitudes toward physical activity in schools.

It’s no secret that today, our children and young adults are spending more time on screens and less time being physically active. This shift towards sedentary lifestyles has raised concerns about its impact on children’s physical health and mental wellbeing in both the short and long term.

It's crucial to understand the vital relationship between physical activity and overall wellbeing, especially as we approach this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week with the theme of "Movement: Moving more for our mental health."

Why is physical activity important for children?

Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining children's physical health. It helps them manage a healthy weight, strengthens muscles, and promotes bone density. Moreover, engaging in physical activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. By encouraging children to be active, schools contribute to their long-term physical wellbeing and instill healthy habits from a young age.

How does physical activity help a child's wellbeing?

Physical activity is not just about promoting physical health; it also has profound effects on overall wellbeing. Regular exercise positively impacts mental health, emotional resilience, social development, and cognitive function. It releases endorphins that elevate mood and reduce stress, contributing to improved mental wellbeing overall. It provides an outlet for emotional expression and promotes social interactions, teamwork, and communication skills, fostering healthy relationships and a sense of belonging. Regular exercise also enhances cognitive function, including attention span, memory, and problem-solving abilities, ultimately helping children perform and achieve within school.

Mental Health Awareness Week and the Importance of Movement

The theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week emphasises the importance of incorporating movement into daily routines to support mental health. Movement-based activities, such as going for walks, dancing, or engaging in chair exercises, play a crucial role in reducing stress, improving mood, and enhancing overall mental wellbeing.

Here are just a few ways you can actively participate:

Wear it Green Day:

Organise a Wear it Green Day in your school to raise vital funds and awareness for mental health. As well as wearing green, include activities such as quizzes, baking, or holding a scavenger hunt to engage the school community and promote mental health awareness. More Info

Use the Schools Pack:

Utilise the Mental Health Foundation's Schools Pack, which is filled with discussion ideas, activities, and lesson plans focused on movement and mental health. Implementing these resources can help kick-start conversations about the importance of physical activity among students and staff. More Info

BBC Teach Live Lesson:

Encourage pupils to participate in the BBC Teach Live Lesson dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Week. This 30-minute programme, available via BBC Teach and on the CBBC channel. More Info

Measuring Physical Activity In Schools

Assessing physical activity is an essential starting point when it comes to understanding how it impacts students' mental health in your school. You can use specific surveys that delve into key aspects of engagement and attitudes towards physical activity:

The Physical Self-Efficacy Scale

The Physical Self-Efficacy Scale is a valuable tool for assessing students' confidence in their ability to engage in physical activity despite potential barriers. This survey focuses on exploring various dimensions of self-efficacy related to physical activity, including:

  • Confidence in maintaining physical activity routines even with a busy schedule.
  • Confidence in choosing physical activity over sedentary alternatives like watching TV or playing video games.
  • Confidence in requesting necessary equipment and resources to engage in physical activities.
  • Confidence in sustaining physical activity despite peer influences or social pressures.

Understanding your students' self-efficacy beliefs can help you identify barriers and challenges that may hinder their participation. By addressing these barriers specifically, you can empower students to adopt and maintain active lifestyles, positively impacting their mental health.

To download a paper copy of the Physical Self-Efficacy Scale survey, click here.

The Attitude to Physical Activity Scale

The Attitude to Physical Activity Scale focuses on exploring students' attitudes and motives towards participating in physical activity and sports. This survey examines key factors influencing students' engagement in physical activity, including:

  • Perceived benefits of physical activity on overall well-being.
  • Motivations for participating in sports and physical activities.
  • Preferences for specific types of physical activities.
  • Barriers and challenges affecting physical activity engagement.

By assessing students' attitudes towards physical activity, you can gain valuable insights into their motivations and preferences. This understanding allows you to design targeted interventions and initiatives that align with students' interests and promote sustained engagement in physical activity.

To download a paper copy of the Attitude To Physical Activity Scale survey, click here.

Implementing these surveys as part of school wellbeing initiatives can enhance understanding and guide efforts to promote physical activity and support mental health among students. By measuring attitudes and self-efficacy related to physical activity, educators can tailor interventions that effectively enhance students' overall well-being and academic success.

Measuring physical activity and collecting insights specific to your school can help you foster a culture of health and wellness that extends beyond Mental Health Awareness Week.

Promoting healthy habits will empower your students to thrive both academically and personally. Through continuous evaluation and targeted interventions, you can create a supportive environment that encourages physical activity, enhances mental health, and fosters lifelong wellbeing.


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