Work out with the marines

25th September 1998 at 01:00
By Gareth Stratton
The Royal Navy Education Service,PO Box 934, Bournemouth, Dorset BH8 8YY. Tel: 01202 668402.
One free copy per school
Age range: 11-16.

Physical education can be the highlight of the week for many, but there are growing signs that children are becoming less active than ever before.

The national curriculum has to evolve to cope with this trend. PE should not just be about teaching sports and games in school; it has to promote a positive attitude towards health and fitness.

The Royal Marines Commando Action Fitness Pack tackles this problem, attempting to instruct teachers how to educate their pupils. The scheme is motivational and challenging, trying to get children to compete against themselves rather than each other, as the England rugby union star Jeremy Guscott explains on the accompanying audio tape.

The basic principles of fitness - frequency, intensity, time and type of activity (FITT) - are clearly and simply explained.

Also discussed are the skeleton, muscles, and the benefits of healthy eating and relaxation. It all combines to offer a good basis from which to encourage pupils to adopt a new, healthy way of life.

Generally, safety is adequately covered: clothing and footwear, warming up, cooling down and lifting techniques are all discussed. However, certain suggested exercises are unsuitable for the age group and some are rather antiquated. What a shame an up-to-date exercise professional wasn't consulted.

As an adult of good strength and fitness, I found several exercises difficult. These are the kind of things I can imagine a tough sergeant drilling his recruits with, but they would not translate well into the classroom, especially when you consider the wide range of physical abilities in schools.

No options are given for participants with special needs, such as an easier version of the exercise or a complete alternative. As a result, some pupils could find themselves doing more harm than good.

The pack states emphatically that it's not who's "toughest" that counts, but the quality (not quantity) of the exercises in a circuit training session. But if a child fails to complete even one exercise, will he or she be motivated or demoralised?

The action fitness pack does assume a certain level of knowledge to understand and teach the sessions. Teachers with specific exercise knowledge should be able to adapt the exercises to meet the needs of their pupils. The lesson plans mapped out in the pack and the ideas in the worksheets and their progression is superb and would be fun to follow. The narration from Jeremy Guscott (a better role model for boys than girls, perhaps) is motivational and lively.

One of the main objectives for the Royal Navy in producing this pack was no doubt to produce a pool of healthier and fitter potential recruits for the service. Whether it achieves this remains to be seen, but overall the pack should help entice a few teenagers off the sofa and into a more fulfilling, healthy and active life.

Sally Drewe is a fitness instructor and trainer for the Espree Gym, London E1

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