Being active in schools in a cold wet UK January is hard! Research has shown that children’s activity is lowest in the winter when the daylight is shorter (1) – particularly in the late afternoon and evening after school has ended (2). Therefore, it is even more important that schools find ways to keep active during the school day during these winter months.
However, motivating a classroom of children when it is raining and cold outside can be difficult and research has shown that, when it rains more, levels of physical activity in primary schools tend to decrease (3). No surprise there you may say, but interestingly the effect from poor weather does not seem to affect all children equally (4). So, you might want to check whether the poor weather is affecting physical activity in children in your school and then think about how you might make some changes to promote increased activity.
This might be as simple a step as to ensure that children bring warm waterproof coats and appropriate footwear to school so that they can still play and learn outside when it is cold and damp. Interestingly, one study found that ‘forcing’ children to play outside on wet days was not as good for children’s physical activity as allowing them to be active inside (5). So, it might be even more important to find ways to do more activity in classrooms – such as active breaks, or active maths. Or, if you have an indoor hall or room available, inside or outside the school, then perhaps there are ways to use this space more effectively to help maintain children’s physical activity during the winter.
Whilst we sadly can’t do much to change the weather (!), we can all try to make changes in school to avoid it having a negative effect on children’s physical activity.