Go Well Blog

Making the most of Fitness in Education – How to design Fitness sessions to incorporate Personal Development.

We have seen a significant boom in the inclusion of fitness based sessions in Primary Schools following the popularity of ‘PE’ with Joe in lockdown and the concerns over decreasing fitness levels of children that became evident.

I say PE in inverted commas as I think it is fair to say that, on behalf of PE practitioners in my team that Joe Wicks MBE provided a fitness session as opposed to a physical education lesson.  

Children following the instructor on the screen like for like, for me, has its limitations.  Yes, children are moving but:

  • How do we ensure children are performing the correct technique?
  • How do the children know if they are working at the right intensity levels?
  • How do we keep them engaged and interested in the long term?
  • What are they learning?

In an education setting, I feel like we can achieve so much more.  We are missing a trick in what more a fitness session can bring to our children.

How to design Fitness sessions to incorporate Personal Development

I want to write today about how we can make the best use of a fitness session, in an education setting, whether that be within a PE lesson or as part of Active 30 provision, to bring about personal development.  

We know schools have very little time in their day to fit in everything they have to and want to do.  With a well-planned and prepared fitness programme we can make a significant impact not only on physical health, mental health but on character building too – all at the same time.

Intent is a word used a lot now in education; if our intent is to incorporate character building to our session then how we design the session is key.  

Here are a few tips on what you can do to develop the following skills/values through fitness sessions:


Fitness itself should be a tough exercise to take part in.  The aim is to get out of breath and sweaty, to be in the moderate to vigorous intensity zone and stay there.  Children can find this difficult (as can adults!).  Quite often we see children giving up when it gets a little tough.  So how we can encourage them to keep going?  We encourage two key things in this area:

Reward effort

For us, one of the key aims of a fitness session is to be working in the right intensity zone.  Whether that takes me 100 reps or 10 it really doesn’t matter.  Reward effort, reward the children working at the right intensity levels and doing their best.  You can access our Rate of Perceived Exertion to help with this.

Set personal goals

We do not advocate making all workouts competitive at a primary age, but seeing progress can motivate a young person to keep going and be determined.  Perhaps pick a few workouts or challenges to use as a measure of fitness, complete them in Week 1 and repeat them in Week 6 with the aim of achieving their personal best.


We can design workouts where teamwork and communication are required to be successful.  See below a work together workout from our Fit for Life programme.  Here the children have to work in a pair to complete the workout; they will have to communicate with each other and work together to complete it.  A personal favourite is adding ‘synced’ movements, where all team members have to complete a movement at the same time, such as a burpee.  To do this successfully they have to talk to each other, perhaps even communicate non verbal when they are out of breath to stay in sync!

Problem Solving/Strategising

We can design team workouts where children have to work together to create a strategy of how best to complete the workout.  Let the children discuss and decide how to split up the reps, give them an aim as this may change their strategy e.g. the aim is for everyone to be working at moderate to vigorous intensity, the aim is to complete the challenge in the fastest time, the aim is to get as many reps as possible, the aim is to perform the movements with the highest quality.  

In an individual workout we can provide a rep scheme that involves some decision making and strategy forming.  E.g.

Complete in any order:

  • 50 squats
  • 50 press ups
  • 50 lunges
  • 50 torso twists

Do you work through doing 50, 50, 50, 50?  Or do you 10 of each until it’s complete? 5 of each? Pair the movements? Easiest first? There are so many options to assess and decisions to make!  It will make for a fascinating discussion back in the classroom.

Also, you can allow multiple attempts at the same workout to allow different strategies to be tested.


There should be no one in the class finding the fitness session easy.  If they are, you aren’t challenging them enough or they aren’t challenging themselves enough.  We are all going to find ourselves struggling at some point in a fitness session, whether we can’t crack a move or we are totally out of breath and don’t think we can do another rep.  If we find ourselves in this position in an individual workout we will need some encouragement from our peers.  If we find ourselves in this position in a group workout we will need the support of our peers and they’ll know how we’re feeling at some point!  But it can stretch a little wider than that, we now all know how it can feel to struggle at something and we can empathise with others when they struggle too, in any area of life.

For all of the above, they won’t just happen with good design.  Fitness doesn’t teach personal development – we do.  

Fitness is one of the mediums/activities that we can use to do it.  How we design our sessions, what questions we ask, what discussions we prompt before, during and after a session helps children to learn and develop these key life skills/values.

If you haven’t got time to plan and prepare a fitness programme like this for your class or school but are interested in the concept, do get in touch – we can help.

For more information contact:

Further information:

Blog – Why moderate to vigorous intensity exercise is important to children and how to measure it.
Go Well Blog

The benefits of having PE, School Sport and Physical Activity at the HEART of our school curriculums and in the hearts of our children.

Ever wondered why some of us are so passionate about the power of a subject like PE?  Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity can be key in unlocking potential, not just for the elite athletes and top performers, but for every child.  School PE lessons and the school sport offer are no longer about aiming to develop an exceptional performer; instead they encompass so much more!  Let’s see what PE, School Sport and Physical Activity can do for our future generations….


Healthy habits 

PE, Physical Activity and sport all embed healthy habits, not just in terms of taking more exercise – we all know that we need to move more, to keep our joints healthy, to maintain a healthy weight etc; the recent Active 30 campaign is helping to reinforce this message in Primary schools; but they also all have a huge impact on other areas of our life too.  Habits such as deploying strategies to cope with stress and anxiety, co-operating with others, building meaningful relationships with others, learning to win and lose, knowing how to cope with setbacks but also how to use these as a catalyst for ambition, hard work, striving for success, acknowledging that instant gratification is often short-lived happiness and not always as rewarding as knowing you have worked hard for something. These things help to develop strong, resilient and well-rounded personalities. Isn’t that the kind of adult we want our children to grow into? 



Exercise is a great way to clear your mind, to gain some perspective, to release your frustrations; it allows us to self regulate, to refocus and gain some clarity, setting us up for whatever challenges lay ahead. Understanding our emotions and finding ways to recognise them, embrace them and choose to express them appropriately is something that can be and should be taught.  Movement is integral to human expression.


Following vigorous exercise your brain is more open to learning, meaning that if children were to do a quick 10 minute blast of exercise before their English or maths lesson their brain would be more open to being challenged, would potentially retain more information and problem solve more effectively. Shouldn’t we be in the business of maximising learning potential? 

Attention span

PE and sport require us to sharpen our attention, to look for detail, to make quick thinking decisions, respond to stimuli. These skills lead to actively involved, confident, connected, lifelong learners. Analysis and decision making allows us to see things from different points of view, to identify key influences and to select appropriate responses, empowering our decision making in future.



PE and competitive sport can very easily help children to understand sequencing of time, the importance of quick reactions, of how decisions made in an instant, can influence the outcome of a whole game, potentially having huge ramifications on the bigger picture.  Taking risks, being daring are key life skills that allow us to have adventures, to aim high, to challenge ourselves, to have self belief, to be able to overcome challenges, to work/sit outside of our comfort zone every now and then and be ok with that. Resilience is a big word – self regulation, being able to react to situations in a measured and calm manner requires a certain equilibrium. Sport teaches children to win and to lose, to support and celebrate the success of others but it also has the opportunity to develop ambition, drive, a try and try again attitude, an acceptance of limitations but an adaptability to goal set and to achieve.


We know that sleep is a great healer and medicine.  Whilst the National Sleep Foundation gives us recommendations about how much sleep we need according to age, they also recognise that this will vary according to how active we are and suggest that the more active you are the more sleep you may need. We know that people are leading far more sedentary working lives and that they are mentally exhausted, but switching minds off isn’t always easy. I refer you back to all of the things previously raised – physical activity has the tendency to tire you out, allowing you to clear your mind and therefore settle your thoughts, which in turn can lead to more restful sleep.


How powerful is all of that?  I could go on and on and on……….

Plato said “lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise saves it and preserves it”.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it was at the HEART of our school curriculums and in the hearts of our children? 

Further reading: 

5 Reasons Why Physical Education Should Be An Important Part Of Your Curriculum – 360 Hoops (

Why study physical education? / Rationale / Health and physical education / Home – Senior Secondary (

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? – Sleep Foundation

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