Japanese exercises helps boost pupils’ energy

Craigour Park Primary School pupils  Krzysiek Goldie, Ellis Hollingdale, Maisie Morton and Caelan King exercise. Picture: Jane Barlow

Craigour Park Primary School pupils Krzysiek Goldie, Ellis Hollingdale, Maisie Morton and Caelan King exercise. Picture: Jane Barlow

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REGISTRATION is normally a time when pupils hunker down for lessons – but not these youngsters.

Craigour Park Primary has become one of the first in Scotland to roll out high-intensity workouts during class time, with pupils engaging in 30-second “bursts” of intense physical exercise at the start of the day.

Exercise gives them more energy. My daughter definitely enjoys them

Stephanie Malone

The sessions, now available on a whole-school basis, have been inspired by the Tabata protocol regime, which was invented by internationally renowned health expert Professor Izumi Tabata and aimed initially at Olympic speed skaters.

As well as simple, on-the-spot activities such as star jumps, scissor leaps and skipping, youngsters are taken out for stamina-boosting runs lasting up to ten minutes.

The scheme was piloted with the school’s P1 pupils and has proved so successful that it has been rolled out to older children, who also participate in simple bone and muscle-building exercises such as squats, press-ups and body lunges.

It has emerged staff at Prestonfield Primary are set to provide similar activity sessions as teachers bid to reduce the number of obese P1s in Edinburgh from 8.5 per cent to 8.1 per cent by December next year.

Parents have hailed the scheme, which they said was having a positive effect on pupils’ energy levels and overall interest in learning.

Mum Stephanie Malone, 41, whose six-year-old daughter, Lily, is in P2 at Craigour Park, said: “The school in general, I think, is passionate about sport. And I think this works really well with the younger children.”

She said her daughter was participating in exercise sessions at different times of the day, helping to break up demanding lessons and increasing concentration.

“When they’re in P1 I think they find the day so long,” she said. “Exercise breaks it up for them and gives them more energy. My daughter definitely enjoys them.

“She says that she sometimes starts feeling tired, then, when she goes back after exercise, she’s ready to do the work.”

Staff said there was no data to quantify the impact of the scheme on pupils’ waistlines and class scores.

But they said anecdotal evidence suggested the sessions had begun to boost fitness levels and motivation.

PE teacher John Mowbray said: “What we are doing is a little bit of the approach taken by St Ninian’s Primary in Stirling, where the kids run a mile a day, and a bit of what we were doing last year with the Tabata protocol regime.

“On one of the days we were doing it we had a PE specialist in and one of the kids jumped up and said, ‘I love doing this’.

“We have coaches and visitors who come to the school and who have worked in lots of schools across Scotland. They say the kids are noticeably fitter, slimmer and livelier than in other schools.”

Among the methods used by teachers to increase pupils’ engagement in physical exercise during their own time are specially designed playground posters which say, “how many squats can you do in 30 
seconds?”.

City bosses have hailed the project and said they were “delighted” it had been rolled out across the school.

And they said a successful trial at Craigour Park would encourage them to consider expanding the initiative to primaries across Edinburgh.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Building short bursts of physical activity into the school day is beneficial to children’s health and fitness and helps boost their physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Research also shows that it improves pupils’ concentration in their school work and above all is fun.

“Everyone wants to see children become more fit and active and as a council we’ve made real improvements in increasing the amount of PE in our schools.”

He added: “By taking part in the project we hope daily physical activity will become a habit and a lifestyle choice for pupils and mean they might be more inclined to be physically active on a regular basis in later life.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com