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Why go to the gym?

Exercise is good for you and makes you feel great. And, as a teacher, you are in an ideal position to keep fit on the job. So work out those muscles while the kids are working out their brains. Here are some exercises to start you off. Specially devised for the TES magazine by Helen Welch, a Cardiff physiotherapist with years of experience treating acute and chronic spinal injuries. If you already have problems with your neck or back, see a physiotherapist before you start. Details - see page 34

1 The I've-got-my-eye-on-you head turn

When standing, imagine a piece of string running through your body and out through the top of your head. Keep your mouth open and relaxed. Imagine someone pulling that piece of string, drawing your head up and your chin backwards. In that position, slowly rotate your head to the left and right.

Do not let your chin stick out or your neck sag.

Repeat 5 times.

If that's too difficult, stand with your back to the wall. As the imaginary person pulls on the string, your head will slide up the wall, drawing your chin in. Keeping a finger on your chin (to check that it doesn't stick out), slowly turn your head to the left and right as far as comfortable.

2 Invigilator's buttock squeeze

Sit on a chair with good back support. Gently tighten your buttock muscles for a count of 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat.

3 The I'm-in-charge-of-this-classroom stance

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on lower stomach below your belly button. Slowly lift your lower stomach towards small of the spine, with relaxed breathing. Keep lower stomach "core" muscle tense for a count of 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.

4 The white-board stretch

Stand straight, with one hand on your hip, the other straight up. Bend to one side, with the opposite arm reaching overhead. Keep pelvis in mid-position, ie don't tilt it.

Repeat 5 times each side.

5 The don't make-me-laugh back-bend

Stand straight with feet shoulder width apart.J Support your lower back with your hands while bending your back as far backwards as possible.J Keep your knees straight during the exercise.

Repeat 5 times each side.

6 The that's-an-interesting-idea upper back stretch

Sit on a chair with your fingers clasped behind to support your neck. Lean your upper back against the back of the chair so that the chair supports the lower back, leaving the upper back free to move. Breathing normally, gently lean the upper part of your spine and shoulders over the edge of the chair.

Repeat 5 times.

7 The staffroom neck tension release.

Sit on a chair. Hold on to edge with your hand. Slowly tilt your head towards the opposite shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 5 times each side.

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