All I want for Christmas is...more active students

RED January encourages people to look after their mental health by being active every. Here's how schools can get involved

RED January

Selection boxes, hot chocolate, mince the piles of sweet wrappers get higher, the waistbands of our clothes get tighter and our lethargy gets stronger. By the time the new year arrives we will all be well and truly stuffed with Christmas excess.

Teachers and students alike can find January difficult following an indulgent December. The January blues can impact on a person’s mood, and although the reality of "Blue Monday" (supposedly the most depressing day of the year – the third Monday in January) is up for debate, there is no arguing that in the post-Christmas afterglow many people will be feeling down.

Being active can be a great way to stave off the winter blues. The charity Mind is encouraging people to beat the blues by going "RED” and running every day in January.

RED January, starting on 1 January, aims to encourage people to do something active every day, as a way to promote good mental health.

Where do I sign up?

Teachers and students can get involved by signing up through the website Redtogether. Under 16s can have an adult sign up on their behalf. On the website there are lots of downloadable posters and resources for schools to use for assemblies or decorating changing rooms.

According to the RED January website, 87 per cent of those that participated last year reported feeling significantly better physically and mentally after completing RED January 2018.

How does it work in school?

Heidi Blanchett, a head of year at Gillingham School in Dorset, took part in RED January 2018.

"Year 9 students from Gillingham School embraced RED January," she says. "Every morning the students and their teachers exercised on our astro pitch. The 20 minutes of exercise seems to be having a positive effect on the students both in and out of lessons."

Meanwhile, over in the South West of England, one school has taken a really inclusive and festive approach to exercise.

After establishing The Daily Mile UK (which gets students to jog at their own pace for 15 minutes a day) at the start of the year, Fosse Way School held a Santa Dash for its students, complete with Santa outfits.

Fosse Way is a special school for students between the ages of 4 to 16. There were 140 students of varying abilities and needs that took part in the dash.

Santa's are go!

— Fosse Way School (@FosseWaySchool) December 11, 2018


Rachel Brown, inclusion lead for the Youth Sports Trust, who also took part in the dash, believes events like this one are important for students' physical and mental health. 

"Inclusive experiences like the Santa Dash ensure that all students are empowered," she says. "In education we focus on progress, but not everything our young people with additional needs achieve can be measured. However, we can definitely evidence how they feel about being included by their smiles."

Mairi Lanyon, head of Fosse Way School, agrees with this. 

"It was a wonderful way to end the term that had begun with the introduction of the Daily Mile. The children had a brilliant time, and I was so proud of all of my students," she says.

Grainne Hallahan is an English teacher. She tweets @heymrshallahan

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