The importance of sport and physical activity for wellbeing in schools

There’s certainly been a shift recently on the emphasis and impact that sport and physical activity can have on wellbeing in schools. Before, PE and Games were seen as fairly one dimensional opportunities for the physically talented to shine and a chance to develop sport specific skills and components of fitness for all. Now, many practitioners see it as a chance to educate and promote positive mental health and wellbeing in schools as well as the more obvious physical benefits.

I’ve been working as a Head of department for nearly 9 years now and seen my job title evolve from ‘Head of PE’ to ‘Director of Sport’ to ‘Director of Sport, PE & Wellness’. The current title more accurately reflects where I believe many PE leaders are now seeing the direction of sport and physical activity. The positive impact of moving your body are undeniable and multi-faceted.

I continue to promote sport and competition through a comprehensive games programme where teamwork, camaraderie, cooperation, socialisation and specific skill acquisition drive the model. But in PE we’ve gone off piste focusing on movement competency, physical literacy and mental well-being. By tracking these areas closely and consistently we can see and prove how closely linked physical activity and mental health are and add value to overall wellbeing in schools.

You can imagine that not all students bought into this initially! They were used to 6 weeks of Basketball or Badminton and now they were being asked to think more deeply about how moving their bodies make them feel emotionally, physically and mentally. We are also using the physical to promote the academic. In the recent podcast I mentioned a book called ‘Spark’ written by John Ratey which details thousands of students struggling with Maths and Science who see their results dramatically improve when they adopt fitness as a lifestyle rather than fitness as sports.

So how successful can this PE crusade be to promote wellbeing in schools?

Well currently much of the wellbeing is taught through various PSHE programmes. At life on time we are strong advocates for quality PSHE teaching often delivered by form tutors. But PE teachers are so well placed to deliver programmes for mental health through their knowledge of the human body and how is adapts and responds to physical activity. Take for one the endorphin effect. We are ten weeks into lockdown and I defy anyone who doesn’t feel better after building some form of movement into their daily routine. Much of the discussion held now on the various webinars is the opportunity to change what we deliver through core PE to fully develop the individual student.

4 tips for any school or PE department to link practical lessons with promotion of wellbeing in schools:

For more information please listen to our latest podcast where we discuss more about the importance of physical activity and its effect on wellbeing in schools.

The Life on Time software has been specifically created to help wellbeing in schools. It can help you monitor physical activity and the mood of a student. If you would like to book a free demo of the software for your school please contact us.

Written by Jeremy Belas

Edited by Jon Ford