Exercise for young teens. Constraint: no sweating allowed.
August 24, 2014 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My friend teaches in a school in in a large municipality in Denmark and is looking for advice on how to comply with the latest "Great Idea For The Kids".

He teaches in a school in Aarhus that serves children aged 5-15 who are immigrants and need to learn danish and get an education at the same time.

The kommune (municipal authority) has decided that the older kids aren't getting enough physical activity and the school is ordered to see that the students get 20 minutes of (supervised) exercise a day. They are to get their heart rate up but not to cause sweating, as there are no showers available.

Teachers are stumped.These youths are age 12-15 and NOT interested. So far, a slow walk around the schoolyard is as close as they've come and my friend says it's "like a death march with optional participation"

I suggested drill team marching. Yes, I know.... but at least that would be something they could do at a slow pace and not sweat.

Students are mixed gender and most are muslim with varying degrees of observance.

Can you think of activities that a biggish group of young teens can do that will not lead to sweating?

ps.... to me, and (from what I'm told) the teachers this is a "roll-eyes" order, that is being protested, but in the meantime, compliance has to happen.
posted by reflecked to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be 20 _continuous_ minutes? Sweating might be less likely if there were, say, 5 exercise intervals of 4 minutes each (and that could be healthy also).

I'm sure they've thought of doing the exercise portion at the end of the day, so the kids could shower at home -- this won't work if they have to ride buses or other packed transportation, of course.
posted by amtho at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Teach them the electric slide? I'm only kind of kidding. But some kind of dance would probably work. I remember doing various choreographed routines in school.
posted by whoaali at 11:11 AM on August 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Can they leave school grounds? Walking would be more interesting if they got to walk ten minutes out and ten back rather than in the courtyard.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:11 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Energising yoga.
posted by erst at 11:14 AM on August 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Musical chairs? (Yes, I'm serious. And it can be done in by breaking up bigger groups into smaller groups. And you can use popular music which the teens might like to listen to.)
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 11:19 AM on August 24, 2014

How about traditional playground games like Red Rover, Capture the Flag, freeze tag, etc? These might or might not cause sweating, but they're easy to learn and don't have to be too strenuous, and more fun than marching.

Hula hoops? Juggling?
posted by steinwald at 11:26 AM on August 24, 2014

Dodgeball. Jump rope. Badmitton.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2014

I've got a similar issue in my high school. We offer:

Speed stacks
yes, walking
Dance parties
anything frisbee
tai chi
posted by kinetic at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Strength training would be excellent here. A few pushups, a minute of wall-sitting or a few pull-ups to complement the walking, yoga, hooa-hoops, etc.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 11:42 AM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might get some pushback teaching yoga to Muslim children. Or dancing.

But Freeze Tag, Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light (which I now think of as the Don't Blink game), Hot Potato, and other playground games could probably work.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2014

There's some good suggestions here that I'll pass to my friend.

Yeah, no yoga or tai chi (darn); those are considered a religious activity by many. Also, no touching between genders (not all the kids are this strict, but it's a caution to observe).

Pushups and pull-ups and frisby-ing would result in sweat.

I guess another constraint is no money spent, so this rules out things like badminton or hula hooping or speed-stacking (which would likely cause perspiring anyway).

The groups are sent out all through the day, by class.

;) I personally am intrigued by the musical chairs idea.
posted by reflecked at 11:55 AM on August 24, 2014

Could they do a stretching routine that's inspired by yoga, but not called that?
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your friend is asking for the impossible. Any activity that gets the heart rate into the aerobic fitness zone is going to elevate the participants' core body temperature, which in turn will engage the body's natural cooling method: sweating.

An activity such as a slow walk is better than sitting, but it's not going to produce much benefit to the cardiovascular system.

However, a brisk walk (5-6 km/h) is unlikely to produce very much sweat, unless it is a hot day or the walker is unfit or significantly overweight, and a brisk walk does have cardiovascular benefits.

Your friend should ask the communal authorities why sweating is not permitted. I enjoy a shower after a long, hard workout, but if I have just been jogging for 20 minutes, I don't feel the need to take a shower. And in my childhood, my schoolmates and I would spend our break period running around outside playing games, undoubtedly getting sweaty, before coming back to classes. We didn't shower.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:20 PM on August 24, 2014 [14 favorites]

Badminton and table tennis.
posted by fshgrl at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2014

I'm confused a bit by the "no sweating" rule -- is that a religious issue that I don't know about? I had 13 years of PE from Elementary school through High School with no showers available except there was one we all sort of walked through after swimming when we had the like 3 weeks of swimming in high school. In middle school we had special gym shirts, and in high school we had whole gym outfits so that helped, but the lack of showers wasn't an issue... we worked out, we sweat, we dried, no big deal.
posted by brainmouse at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Any physical activity can cause sweating.

Maybe the rooms can be kept cool enough that sweating is less likely?
posted by bearette at 12:54 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

No Sweating is quite possibly a religious issue (bathing facilities in Danish schools has been a hot topic for this reason among other) or just a practical issue. It's been YEARS but my own Danish school solved a similar problem by doing time-trial treasure hunt type things (fastest team to find clues scattered about the neighbourhood got a small treat like choosing the music for the school assembly etc).
posted by kariebookish at 1:16 PM on August 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you need this to be pushups and things approximating weight resistance training. Aerobic exercise is going to cause sweating. Working the muscles in a fashion akin to weightlifting won't. You might be able to do this via short interval aerobic training, but I doubt it.

Also, I don't see why they can't sweat. We never showered after gym class, growing up. Yeah, you might get a little sweaty running or playing basketball or dodgeball, but not that much that it was a big deal at that age.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:18 PM on August 24, 2014

I was going to suggest line dancing (no touching required) but it turns out that all public dancing is forbidden -- it says that women can't even dance in front of other women, so segretating the genders for PE class wouldn't work.

Have you tried asking the kids for ideas on what would be both interesting and religiously acceptable to them? Or is their Danish not far enough along yet to have that sort of meeting?

(Speaking of meetings -- based on some gender dynamics I've noticed in Muslim Student Associations in the U.S., you may need to hold separate meetings for the boys and girls as the latter may feel unable to disagree with the former in a mixed-gender meeting and you don't want to inadvertently end up with an activity that the boys enjoy but the girls hate.)

Have you tried looking at what other schools in other parts of the world have done? Finding PE activities that Muslims, especially Muslim girls, can participate in at school is a known issue that's been studied -- Googling Muslim physical education found a lot of articles, including this report from the UK on getting Muslim girls to participate.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I personally am intrigued by the musical chairs idea.

That link I found forbidding public dancing also forbids music "suitable for entertainment and amusement gatherings" so musical anything might be a problem for the more religiously adherent kids (or their parents!).
posted by Jacqueline at 1:43 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since yoga's not okay and neither is sweating or spending money, I'm going to suggest they find some people who can donate decent (industrial, in used-condition, from a gym) fans. Unless that's a financial issue, too, since it could increase the electric bill. My point: some kids are going to be more sweat-prone than others. I'm a woman and I've always been more prone to perspiration than other women. So what wouldn't lead to sweat for some will definitely lead to sweat for others. Having a few fans to keep it really cool in there will help even this out, I think.

You can do the stretches/exercises that physical therapists teach their patients, and simply call it stretching and strengthening exercises. Avoid any emblematic yoga poses, of course.

Maybe playing catch? Croquette or bocce ball, again if someone is willing to donate the needed items? Simon Says? ("Simon says lift your left leg. Simon says jump to your right. Simon says turn around two times." And so on) Red Light Green Light? Stop me if some of these would still have religious concerns, potentially, but they seem like opportunities to do low-level exercise that also don't cross the 'no dancing' rule (you'd have to be careful with Simon Says for this reason).
posted by nightrecordings at 2:20 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

how about a relay race?
posted by steinwald at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2014

Teach them to juggle! It's active enough to make it easier to sit down and concentrate later (esp. if you drop things a lot), and it's also a skill that you can work on individually.
posted by yarntheory at 2:48 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Catching up.... there is food for thought here, and it's much appreciated.

After further discussion with my friend:

I was mistaken about the time. This is ALL the kids, and is to be from 11 am to 11:20. There are approximately 60 students. They are taken out to the playground area when the younger children in the school are having their lunch break.

It is outdoors, with no provision in place for when it rains (sheesh). This will (I'm told) be a subject for further discussion. I jokingly suggested "musical umbrellas".

A different teacher is assigned to supervise/ instruct each day.

Music can be used, but it's best if it's instrumental.

The school walks a fine line accommodating religious constraints. Boys and girls are in the classroom together, but don't interact much outside the classroom. There is work done to make sure the girls participate freely and don't defer to the boys.

I'm making sure to include all your suggestions, and will report back on what my friend says.

He's also the one who will be "testifying" to the commune about the new requirement.
posted by reflecked at 5:22 PM on August 24, 2014

Japanese competitive walking! Seriously - google the competitions on youtube, and be amazed. Get them excited watching a video to try and follow a part of the routine. With 60 kids, you could divide them into 3 groups to co-operate or compete.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Can they just shoot hoops? Around the World or HORSE?
posted by spaltavian at 8:39 PM on August 24, 2014

Games like Mother may I, Four square, cats cradle, hopscotch, Hackey sack?
posted by tenaciousmoon at 12:03 AM on August 25, 2014

Look at the 2 books from The New Games Foundation. In the late '60s and early '70s the founders invented games for 2 to 100+ people where: 1) Everybody plays, 2) Competition and cooperation should co-exist; but while competition can be important, winning and losing is not, 3) Play should require no or little equipment, and 4) The rules should be dirt simple and fun. I went to several gatherings that included or featured New Games. The only part I didn't like was the time for games always came to an end too soon.

Search your favorite online bookseller for 'New Games Book', 'More New Games', or the author 'New Games Foundation'. Plenty of used ones on Amazon.
posted by Homer42 at 6:14 AM on August 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I faved brianogilvie because I agree with what was said. Unfortunately, the reality of the requirements still exist, and in truth, even standing around is better than sitting.

I faved Jaqueline because she found new information for me to consider.

I faved kariebookish because I really like the idea of some type of treasure hunt and with some tweaking might be a good future activity.

For now, the teachers are intrigued by viggorlijah's suggestion of synchronized walking. That is something that could be done with no equipment, at a pace that will not cause sweating, is unlikely to cause the kids to withdraw because they won't compete in front of the opposite sex, and would be a chance for a cooperative effort. Right now, my friend is planning on trying out follow the leader/pied piper - type walking in patterns, with him initially being in the lead.

Thank all of you for thinking about this.
posted by reflecked at 12:54 AM on August 26, 2014

I've sent you a MeMail.
posted by rawrberry at 3:03 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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