Supporting Relationships Education Through PE

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Exercise Mental Health Keep Fit


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How can ‘PE with Joe’ help young people have healthy and reliable relationships, now and after lockdown?

Given what we know about brain development, this is our chance to set our young people up for happier, healthier and more successful lives.

Millions of families have been getting together to keep fit with ‘the nation’s PE teacher’, Joe Wicks. With the school gym closed, this is helping children (and adults) see the gains ‘beyond physical fitness’. Clinical psychologist, Kerry Ashton-Shaw, believes exercise can help children and young people strengthen relationships skills for life.

Rhythmic, repetitive activities reduce anxiety…

Ashton-Shaw says, “To learn, we need to feel safe, regulated and connected to others. Exercise is great for this. Rhythmic, repetitive activities reduce anxiety, so we can understand and regulate our emotions. As well as supporting academic learning, this helps children and young people in their relationships too. Exercising with family allows children to develop vital life skills, with adults role modelling empathy, social skills and self-esteem. Skills that will support children and young people long after lockdown.”

Mad Birmingham

In 2019, Birmingham City University researched Sport Birmingham’s Make A Difference (M.A.D) programme, which combined sport and mentoring in 6 to 8 weeks of personal development. The insight gained from interviews with those on the programme can help with supporting children and young people through exercising and learning at home and in school.

Learn more about the M.A.D programme findings and discover more guidance on keeping healthy and exercising: Visit Sport England’s advice and Sport Birmingham’s tips.

4 Tips for Relationships Education

With school temporarily replaced by learning at home for most children and young people, parents and carers now have a bigger share of this responsibility. So, how can we support our young people to role model positive relationships? Encouraging families to exercise together is one opportunity as Joe Wicks enthusiastically advocates. Given what we know about brain development, this is a chance to set our children and young people up for happier, healthier and more successful lives. Here are a few exercise tips you can adapt and pass on to your school community:

  1. Exercise regularly. In the absence of school structure, routine helps manage stress and practise positive habits.
  2. Exercise together if you can. This reinforces connections and increases interest. Do it as a team. Acknowledge a child’s strengths and successes. If they are facing difficulties, work together to overcome them.
  3. Unlock learning and make it fun. Exercise and laughing together are good ways to relieve everyone’s stress. Listen. Communication is made easier by the calming effects of repetitive actions in exercise. This makes PE a chance to take advantage of this opportunity and react with empathy, rather than judgement.
  4. Make time for ‘free play’ (which may just be running around the garden). Less structured activities can give children opportunities to learn new skills.

Get warmed up for compulsory relationships education (RSE)

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us just how important healthy, nurturing and dependable relationships are to all of us. Therefore, it’s a chance to see this as a positive opportunity to help parents to understand this vitally important, and soon to be compulsory, part of the curriculum.

Helping families role model healthy and reliable relationships with PE at home can help you prepare for relationships education when the school doors reopen.

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