Exercise and health in lockdown

Mr George Cook, Head of Hockey at WHS, looks at how you can get fitter than you have ever been during lockdown.

In these unprecedented times it is all too easy to fall into the trap of spending time thinking about all of the things this lockdown has taken away from us.

For example:

Seeing friends
Going to work
Sunbathing over the bank holiday weekend
Going out for coffee/food
Going shopping and socialising with friends

Another way to view this unprecedented situation is that we now have more time on our hands than ever before. Time to do all of those tasks and pursue all those goals you have been putting off because you’re ‘too busy’ normally.

The national shortage of flour is an indication of how a large proportion of our society intend to pass the time baking all sorts of high sugar not so healthy snacks and cakes. But what if you could come out of lockdown healthier and fitter than you went into it? And is this even possible?

The lockdown has given the gift of time to the nation. It may sound unreasonable to suggest that increased health and fitness are attainable targets when we are largely confined to our houses. But bear with me, there is light at the end of this tunnel…!

Trainers

Do more than you eat:

We have been told that we can leave for essential food shopping and for exercising. But what if you can’t run or it simply isn’t the mode of exercise for you. No problem, one small change to the way you walk can revolutionise the way you use that magical outdoor hour.

According to the CDC, walking at 1-2mph is considered slow and equates to approximately 50 steps per minute. Fast or brisk walking is between 3-4mph and averages at 100 steps per minute. Within the same timeframe you can double your step count, lift your heart rate and work in your aerobic zone of ~60% maximum effort. This alone can take you above and beyond your NHS target of 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Benefits of sleeping more:

Most of us are guilty of wishing we could just stay in bed that extra 5 or 10 minutes when our alarm goes off in the morning. The reality of work and life schedules mean that more often than not we trade our hours of sleep in order to send that last email, complete that piece of work or to watch another episode of your Netflix series because ‘you’ve earned it’.

The cumulative effect of this on your metabolism can be hugely detrimental to your overall health. It was identified by the sleep foundation that those individuals who slept fewer than 6 hours a night were more likely to store fat and develop symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

This is therefore the perfect opportunity to rewind the effects of stress and lack of sleep that have been building up, perhaps you have become so used to it you didn’t even realise it was a problem anymore.

The lockdown has provided opportunity to hit the reset button on your metabolism and metabolic rate through self-care. And yes, all you have to do is sleep more. The caveat to this is that the same symptoms reappeared in individuals who slept for more than 10 hours a night, regularly.

Sleep
Sleep: the key to a healthy lifestyle?

Opportunities to cook and what to make:

In a world where socialising with friends often includes going out for dinner, coffee and brunch it has become all too easy to develop unhealthy and undesirable eating habits without realising it. Examples could include having a high caffeine intake, consuming lots of high sugar content snacks/sweets/desserts and not drinking sufficient amounts of water.

I’m sure many in society wondered what they might watch on TV now that all live sport has been cancelled for the foreseeable future; cue TV celebrity chefs to save the day. Each day you can find fresh inspiration for new and healthy ideas to sustain your body through lockdown. There are no more late nights away at the office (for most of us), there is more time to prepare a healthy meal to have as opposed to the quick fix oven pizza that normally comes out when tiredness dictates the menu.

Watch below for inspiration:

Healthy nutrition is central to achieving wellbeing.

Maximise your workout and increase your metabolism:

He has rapidly become a household name; from becoming an author, tv star and most recently a PE teacher, Joe Wicks has become famous using one of the most simple and effective training methods available to us.

High intensity interval training: HIIT. This is exercise that involved short periods of high intensity bursts of work followed by short periods of rest.

But what does it actually do for us? Working at your maximum level for a period of 30-60s followed by a short rest period will raise your heart rate and cause you to become tired and out of breath very quickly.

By segmenting these periods of high work rate, we are able to spend more time at these elevated work levels and burn more calories and get fitter.

What to include? HIIT workouts tend to be bodyweight, perfect when your gym is now the living room. Made up of fundamental movements including, squats, lunges and jumps as well as isometric holds, it is possible to take yourself through a full body high intensity workout in less than 30 minutes.

There are many lasting benefits to this, going substantially beyond the 30 minutes you devote to it. Inactivity can lead to muscle wastage and associated injuries and conditions; this will prevent this as you become stronger than you ever imagined completing these regularly.

They also have the lasting benefit of raising your metabolism, in other words, you keep improving even after your workout has come to an end!

Conclusion:

Lockdown has provided opportunity to reset and obtain healthy sleeping patterns, spend more time cooking healthy meals to support a balanced diet and more opportunity to exercise in different ways that can have life changing benefits far beyond our return to normality. Let’s see the positive in the current situation and prioritise our health during lockdown.


References:

Sleep foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-excessive-sleep-can-affect-your-metabolism

Gender Discrimination in Sports

Martha, Year 8, discusses gender discrimination in sports and outlines recent developments that have helped to move the industry towards greater equality.

What is the issue?

Gender discrimination in sports has long been a controversial topic due to inequality regarding wage, audience viewing numbers, and the overall range of opportunities that exists between men and women in the arena of competitive sports. Gender discrimination is still an issue in the 21st century; more people still will watch men’s football than women’s, and women’s football is rarely discussed in the media.

Above: Sport vector created by macrovector 

Why do people consider women’s sports as less deserving than men’s?

Many people think that if there was to be more media coverage or sponsorship of women’s sport it would be more popular with audiences. The media says that if women’s sport generated more interest in the first place then they would invest more time and money into it.

Most people agree on what it takes to make a sport successful: commercial appeal, interest from the general public, and media coverage. The fact is that sponsors are less likely to promote teams or individuals who don’t have lots of media exposure, and not many women in sports do. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that in 2013, women’s sports received only 7% of coverage and a shocking 0.4% of commercial sponsorships[1].

This is a vicious circle, as viewers want to watch sports at the highest professional standard, and sponsors want to be associated with the best athletes. Because of the lack of sponsorship many female athletes, even those who represent their countries, have to fit training around employment. Many male athletes, however, would have their sport as their profession and as such would not need to divide their training regime with other work. Women who are paid usually earn less than their male colleagues; the Professional Golfers’ Association, for example, offers 256 million dollars in prize money; the women’s association offers only 50 million[2]. This inequality also happens in pay for coaches of women’s teams compared to male teams.

What is happening now?

Things are changing, and there is energy behind equality for the industry. The English women’s cricket team became professional in 2014, signing a two-year sponsorship deal with Kia after winning many Ashes contests. The Wimbledon Championships started awarding women the same amount of prize money as men in 2007[3]. Most importantly, the opinions of sports fans seem to be changing: 61% of fans surveyed by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation said they believed top sportswomen were just as skilful as their male equivalents and over half said women’s sport was just as exciting to watch[4].

The road to equality is not an easy one, and there are many different aspects to achieving this; pay, opportunity and recognition. Lots have been done in more recent years to address aspects like equal pay, but there is still more to do to gain full equality. When the Women’s World Cup has as much excitement, sponsorship and audience engagement as the Men’s World Cup, then we are nearer to having achieved equality in sport.


References

[1] https://www.womeninsport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Womens-Sport-Say-Yes-to-Success.pdf

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/golf/2018/12/17/top-ten-women-golfers-earn-80-per-cent-less-men/

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/11/despite-equal-grand-slam-tournement-prizes-tennis-still-has-a-pay-gap.html

[4] https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2014/07/27/why-professional-womens-sport-is-less-popular-than-mens

 

Does taking part in co-curricular activities really improve academic outcomes?

Jenny Cox, Director of Co-curricular and Partnerships at Wimbledon High, looks at the links between co-curricular activities and the impact these can have on academic outcomes in the classroom.

There has been much research over the years investigating the link between Sport and its benefits – not only to a healthy lifestyle – but to the academic progress of students in schools and universities.  Research has shown that regular physical activity leads to improvements in a range of cognitive functions, including information processing, attention and executive function (Chaddock et al. 2011). However, does involvement in any co-curricular club facilitate academic outcomes?

‘Flow’

Can you think of a time when you have ever been so absorbed in an activity that you have completely lost track of time? That whatever you were doing was challenging, totally captivating, was extending your skills and you were virtually operating in the subconscious? If you can, it’s likely that you were experiencing a phenomenon known as ‘flow’. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi writing in the 1960s researched this initially with it really coming to the forefront of sports psychology in the 1990s.

He described it as:

“A deeply rewarding and optimal experience characterised

by intense focus on a specific activity

to the point of becoming totally absorbed in it”

Csikszentmihalyi suggested that experiencing ‘flow’ makes us happier and more successful, which in turn leads to increased performance. To get to this point, he pointed out that tasks have to be constantly challenging which in turn results in personal growth and development. This doesn’t mean that we always have to be in a state of optimal performance, but more that we are fully immersed in the process of the task in hand, as shown in the diagram below:

Activities & Flow diagram by Csikszentmihalyi

‘Flow’ experiences can happen as part of everyday life, and Csikszentmihalyi suggested overlearning a concept or a skill can help people experience flow. Within a sporting context, it is sometimes referred to a “being in the zone”, experiencing a loss of self-consciousness and feeling a sense of complete mastery.

Motivation

In addition to overlearning, another key component of finding ‘flow’ is doing activities that we are intrinsically motivated to take part in. This means work and activities that we feel real meaning behind and enjoy doing for the sake of doing. Financial gain, awards and praise can be by-products of the ‘flow’ activities you do, but they cannot be the core motivation behind what you’re doing. Csikszentmihalyi even goes further, saying the feeling should be “such that often the end goal is just an excuse for the process.”

Academic success

So why is this relevant to our school co-curricular programme and can it be linked to academic success?  The links here are two-fold.

Firstly, the co-curricular programme is designed to inspire and enhance the general learning of new skills and concepts. It gives us more time to focus on over-learning a skill or concept because there is no pressure of being examined, therefore no exact specification or course content to get through. We have the luxury of taking our time, over-rehearsing, over practising to a point of taking part in an activity with a loss of sub-consciousness. We may repeat skills so frequently because we revisit them two, three, four, seven, eight times a week, (think of rowing, drama, and music to name just three activities that have repeat weekly sessions), that the feeling of knowing a skill, a sequence, a technique really well and performing is sub-consciously really does happen.

Secondly, with this feeling of ‘flow’ comes those ‘magic moments’ we can all benefit from at any point during the day. The mere fact we are immersed in activity we enjoy could result in us being ‘in the zone’. We are busy immersed in something which is likely to mean we are automatically not thinking about an essay, a grade, a piece of coursework, a friendship or relationship issue at that time and so as a consequence that time contributes enormously to our state of well-being and happiness. This, in turn, is highly likely to lead to a more productive ‘head space’ for work when we return to it, less procrastinating, greater focus and possibly better outcomes.

So can we draw a link between participation in co-curricular activities and academic outcomes? There is research to indicate we can….. happy reading!

References

  • Chaddock, L., C. H. Hillman, S. M. Buck, and N. J. Cohen. 2011. “Aerobic Fitness and Executive Control of Relational Memory in Preadolescent Children.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 43 (2): 344–349.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row
  • Bailey R. (2016): Sport, physical activity and educational achievement – towards an explanatory model, Sport in Society

 

 

The importance of collaborative learning

How can we encourage collaborative learning? Alex Farrer, STEAM Co-ordinator at Wimbledon High, looks at strategies to encourage creative collaboration in the classroom.

Pupils’ ability to work collaboratively in the classroom cannot just be assumed. Pupils develop high levels of teamwork skills in many areas of school life such as being part of a rowing squad or playing in an ensemble. These strengths are also being harnessed in a variety of subject areas but need to be taught and developed within a coherent framework.  Last week we were very pleased to learn that Wimbledon High was shortlisted for the TES Independent Schools Creativity Award 2019. This recognises the development of STEAM skills such as teamwork, problem solving, creativity and curiosity across the curriculum. Wimbledon High pupils are enjoying tackling intriguing STEAM activities in a variety of subject areas. One important question to ask is what sort of progression should we expect as pupils develop these skills?

The Science National Curriculum for England (D of E gov.uk 2015) outlines the “working scientifically” skills expected of pupils from year 1 upwards. Pupils are expected to answer scientific questions in a range of different ways such as in an investigation where variables can be identified and controlled and a fair test type of enquiry is possible.

However, this is not the only way of “working scientifically”. Pupils also need to use different approaches such as identifying and classifying, pattern seeking, researching and observing over time to answer scientific questions. In the excellent resource “It’s not Fair -or is it?” (Turner, Keogh, Naylor and Lawrence) useful progression grids are provided to help teachers identify the progression that might be expected as pupils develop these skills. For example, when using research skills younger pupils use books and electronic media to find things out and talk about whether an information source is useful. Older pupils can use relevant information from a range of secondary sources and evaluate how well their research has answered their questions.

The skills that are used in our STEAM lessons at Wimbledon High in both the Senior and Junior Schools utilise many of these “working scientifically” skills and skill progression grids can be very useful when planning and pitching lessons. However, our STEAM lessons happen in all subject areas and develop a range of other skills including:

  • problem solving
  • teamwork
  • creativity
  • curiosity

Carefully planned cross-curricular links allow subjects that might at first glance be considered to be very different from each other to complement each other. An example of this is a recent year 10 art lesson where STEAM was injected into the lesson in the form of chemistry knowledge and skills. Pupils greatly benefited from the opportunity to put some chemistry into art and some art into chemistry as they studied the colour blue. Curiosity was piqued and many links were made. Many questions were asked and answered as pupils worked together to learn about Egyptian Blue through the ages and recent developments in the use of the pigment for biomedical imaging.

There are many other examples of how subjects are being combined to enhance both. The physiological responses to listening to different types of music made for an interesting investigation with groups of year 7. In this STEAM Music lesson pupils with emerging teamwork skills simply shared tasks between members of the group. Pupils with more developed teamwork skills organised and negotiated different roles in the group depending on identified skills. They also checked progress and adjusted how the group was working in a supportive manner. A skill that often takes considerable practise for many of us!

Professor Roger Kneebone from Imperial College promotes the benefits of collaborating outside of your own discipline. He recently made the headlines when he discussed the dexterity skills of medical students. He talks about the ways students taking part in an artistic pursuit, playing a musical instrument or a sport develop these skills. He believes that surgeons are better at their job if they have learned those skills that being in an orchestra or a team demand.  High levels of teamwork and communication are essential to success in all of those fields, including surgery!

Ensuring that we give pupils many opportunities to develop these collaborative skills both inside and outside of lessons is key. We must have high expectations of progression in the way that pupils are developing these skills. Regular opportunities to extend and consolidate these important skills is also important. It is essential to make it clear to pupils at the start of the activity what the skill objective is and what the skill success criteria is. It is hard to develop a skill if it is not taught explicitly, so modelling key steps is helpful as is highlighting the following to pupils:

  • Why are we doing this activity?
  • Why is it important?
  • How does it link to the subject area?
  • How does it link to the real life applications?
  • What skills are we building?
  • Why are these skills important?
  • What sort of problems might be encountered?
  • How might we deal with these problems?

Teacher support during the lesson is formative and needs to turn a spotlight on successes, hitches, failures, resilience, problems and solutions. For example, the teacher might interrupt learning briefly to point out that some groups have had a problem but after some frustrations, one pupil’s bright idea changed their fortunes. The other groups are then encouraged to refocus and to try to also find a good way to solve a specific problem. There might be a reason why problems are happening. Some groups may need some scaffolding or targeted questioning to help them think their way through hitches.

STEAM lessons at Wimbledon High are providing extra opportunities for pupils to build their confidence, and to be flexible, creative and collaborative when faced with novel contexts. These skills need to be modelled and developed and progression needs to be planned carefully. STEAM is great fun, but serious fun, as the concentration seen on faces in the STEAM space show!

Twitter: @STEAM_WHS
Blog: http://www.whs-blogs.co.uk/steam-blog/