A year long study into the impact of daily physical activity on primary school children has found that not only did physical health and classroom activity improve but there was also a marked positive impact on mood, behaviour and concentration.
Designed to increase the daily physical activity of all primary school children, Steps 2 Summit, (which was created by a team of former teachers and PE leaders) also strives to foster greater aspirations and develop positive character traits in the pupils who use it and aid in the development of childrens' social and mental health.
A range of primary schools were identified to take part in the project, ranging from an intake of 108 pupils to 450 pupils. Each school had different outdoor spaces available to them and different priorities and barriers.
The Steps 2 Summit programme has been welcomed by Maggie Throup MP, Member of Parliament for Erewash who also established and Chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity.
Maggie recently joined pupils on a walk at Grange Primary in Long Eaton where Headteacher, Zoe Buxton has noticed a major difference outside of the physical benefits.
"This is an opportunity for social development as well because we found that as the children are going along the long trek with their class teacher, we are finding the children are happier to talk about general things."
Physical Health impact
During the Steps 2 Summit programme, all pupils aim to summit a virtual mountain by the end of each academic year. They add to their distance by walking a measured course (or courses) at school and can even add their walk to school to increase their progress.
This information is inputted to a system which moves their personalised flag up their class mountain by the correct amount.
Social Health impact
By learning about the geography, stories, history and culture of some of the world's most iconic mountain areas, children develop a deeper understanding of the world they live in. This is communicated to the children via lessons and assemblies that are part of the package.
Colin Booth, a qualified UKCC rugby, hockey and cricket coach is the founder and Managing Director of TLG-PE Limited which created the Steps 2 Summit programme.
‘We expected the improvement in physical health as a result of increases in activity and to some extent anticipated the social impact too. However, the mental health impact has been quite profound.
‘It is widely known that exercise and being outdoors in all weathers is beneficial for mental health but as result of aiming for the summit, which may take a full academic year, children experience delayed gratification and must employ resilience and perseverance in order to achieve a common goal.
‘The summiteer skills, at the heart of this project, explicitly teach children to foster beneficial character traits which promote good mental health. Creativity, mindfulness and resilience are also built in alongside plenty of national curriculum content and this has been great to see across the study.'
At each school, staff decided on a suitable area on which to mark out a course. Some schools measured out and marked just one course, other schools had long and short courses for the children to use.
Training was given to all staff and walking was timetabled into the school day. The distance walked was then inputted into the Steps 2 Summit system, whilst assemblies were used to engage the children and Curriculum lessons were taught to deepen children's knowledge
Colin Booth concludes;
‘Current concerns about the future of school aged children are rife; childhood obesity and its related health concerns, the sedentary life lived by many of our children, mental health challenges faced at a younger age, lack of positive role models and an inability to cope with set-backs all mean that Steps 2 Summit could not be more timely.
‘By using Steps 2 Summit, schools can enable all children to be more physically active and teach them the importance of resilience and perseverance. By embracing this way of thinking at a young age, they will be able to carry these habits into their adult life and aspire to be explorers of the world.