Seven exercises you can squeeze into the school day

Keep fit while you work with these easy exercises you can do in school

Jo Steer

Seven exercises you can squeeze into the school day

Exercise – we all know it’s good for us, but seriously…who has the time?

In the short window between when we’re not looking after someone else’s children, or our own, we’re most likely working through a task list the size of a small volcano.

And when we do actually find time just for us? Well then of course we want – we deserve – to relax.

But exercise can be relaxing and should be a high priority. Alongside the numerous benefits it can bring to our physical health, we now know that regular exercise – including shorter workouts - can have a profound impact on a person’s emotional and mental health, and indeed their daily happiness.

So how do we find the time?

Boost your body, brain and mood with these seven exercises that slot nicely into the school day. Get a group of you involved in a classroom, or find a nice secluded spot on your own.

1. Break bounces

Just had a hard lesson? Take a few moments of transition time or break to try 30 "break bounces". If you’re a fan of old-school jumping jacks, simply stand with your feet together and arms by your side, then hop them both apart at the same time. Alternatively, skipping with an imaginary rope or running on the spot for 30 seconds to a minute will raise the heart rate nicely.

2. Teacher trees

If you’re looking for a calmer approach, take a "tree" pose. Standing tall and upright, bring your weight onto your left foot and slowly raise your right ankle away from the floor, reaching down to clasp this foot before drawing it upwards. Press this into the inner-thigh of your standing left leg or, if that’s too much, gently rest on the calf or ankle instead. Focus your attention on a spot in the distance to support balance and take a few breaths in this position, feeling the calm strength of your inner-tree. Repeat on the other leg for double the zen!

3. Duty calf raises

Liven up a drama-free break duty with some inconspicuous calf raises. Standing shoulder-length apart, with a straight, tall back, simply come up on the balls of your feet, squeezing the calf muscles as you go. Try 3 sets of 20 repetitions to add some burn to your break!

4. Chair squats

Working through a mountain of marking? Use this as an opportunity to strengthen the muscles in your lower body. When you first go to sit down on your chair, simply sit back up as soon as you feel the chair below. Repeat 20 times, remembering to keep your back straight and your knees in front of your toes. Throw in another set for every few books marked and you’ll soon have the best glutes in school.

5. Desk push-ups

When your thighs can’t take any more squats and your brain can’t take any more "moving on comments", build up some upper-body strength with some desk push ups. From standing, place your hands down on the desk, shoulder-width apart, and walk the feet back into a plank-like position. Slowly lower yourself down towards the desk and push yourself back up.

6. Chair crunches

Engage and strengthen your core with these stomach crunches, straight from the chair. Shuffle to the edge of your chair with your back straight and upright, before reclining back so that your shoulder blades touch the back of the chair. Keeping your stomach muscles engaged, lift alternate legs one at a time, aiming for 20 reps. If you’re feeling braver, you can lift both legs at the same time.  

7. Just get moving

There are many points in the school day, when you can choose to be either active or stationary. Maybe it’s a choice between walking to the staff room at break or staying in your room; teaching from your desk (urghhh!) or rotating around the room. Whatever the situation, use every opportunity to get moving. We’re very lucky as teachers to have an active job – don’t make it a sedentary one.   

Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions and wellbeing strategies

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Jo Steer

Jo Steer is a former leader now working with schools as a wellbeing consultant

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