Why teachers might as well jump to Van Halen

A brief burst of exercise can boost teachers' wellbeing – and dancing to a rock classic works for Aidan Harvey-Craig

Aidan Harvey-Craig

Teacher wellbeing: Listen to Jump by Van Halen to boost your mood, says Aidan Harvey-Craig

There is scientific proof that dancing to rock classic Jump by Van Halen significantly improves your mood. Well, sort of.  

Certainly, having tried this out myself a number of times, I can tell you that it works – and I can also tell you the best way to dance to Jump, too.

And right now, with teachers everywhere dealing with lockdowns, grey weather, remote teaching and endless government policy changes – and the fact that it's still only Thursday – it's needed more than ever.

Teacher wellbeing: The power of a rock classic

First, you’ll need the song: you can find Jump on most music streaming services, but we’ve also lined it up for you below.

From the off, there are a few bars of intro with some serious keyboards. This is where you can stand and loosen up, start getting yourself in the zone.

Think professional athlete just about to start a race – shake your hands, then your arms, throw off the stress. Then shake your legs (one at a time). Maybe even do a little gentle bouncing on your toes.

Then about 12 seconds in and the drummer arrives and we're into that classic rock beat. The floor is yours.

You might want to go straight into some pogoing – that’s a great way to start. However, if you’re feeling more cautious, a gentle wiggling of your hips will get you going (ideally in time to the beat, but – hey – no one’s going to judge).

Warm-up those vocal cords

Around about now you’ll be hit with some lyrics – and a bit of karaoke is required. So, while you’re dancing, sing along to these poetically philosophical lines:

I get up / and nothing gets me down / You got it tough /  I’ve seen the toughest around /  And I know, baby, just how you feel / You’ve got to roll -oll -oll with the punches and get to what’s real

Now the beat changes. Something different is required  – something more fluid. See this as an opportunity for a short burst of complete, anarchic self-expression. If that’s too daunting, simply adopt aeroplane arms and run around the room.

Then we’re into the big one – the chorus. This is pretty simple. Whenever you hear the word "jump" kick one leg in the air as high as you can. It’s important to keep away from shelves, crockery and small children at this point.

And no doubt you have a massive smile on your face by now.

Here comes the science bit

OK, so we’ve had a boogie but by now you’re thinking, "Is this really scientific?" Well, in a word – yes!

This is type of activity is called an "exercise snack" because it only takes a few minutes. In fact, there are all kinds of different ways of taking an exercise snack.

For example, if rock music is not really your thing, a short walk (of just a few minutes) will do just as well, or even simply running up the stairs.

And the science behind the benefit of taking regular, short exercise snacks is serious. It’s changing from one state to another that gives us the wellbeing boost. The change from sitting still to dancing (or walking) to sitting still again.

It’s not just about feeling good – these small changes in physical activity lead to big gains in creative thinking. That’s because it’s the first few minutes of physical activity when you’re at your most creative.

Then, when you stop moving, and return to your desk, that change gives you another creative boost!

It’s not often you hear that sitting back down is good for you. But it is, as long as you’ve done a small bit of moving around beforehand.

It’s not going to be practical to spend the whole day taking five minutes on and five minutes off, but having some kind of change spread regularly throughout the day certainly does seem to work on both wellbeing and creativity.

Because, when you look closely at the science, you discover that Van Halen were absolutely right – you might as well jump!

Aidan Harvey-Craig is a psychology teacher and student counsellor at an international school in Malawi. His book, 18 Wellbeing Hacks for Students: using psychology’s secrets to survive and thrive, is out now. He tweets @psychologyhack

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