Using bio-feedback to enhance resilience
The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has developed SmartGym, a new approach that combines technology and sports psychology with the aim of improving young people’s mental health and academic outcomes.
SmartGym was originally developed to encourage resilience in elite athletes. We have adapted it for use with under-achieving children and young people in schools in collaboration with a sports psychologist.
Groups of 6-8 children and parents take part in ten ‘circuit training’ sessions, where the children work through a carefully designed set of performance drills, guided by a team of teaching staff and psychologists. The sessions focus on developing the five life skills that promote resilience and underpin positive mental health and academic achievement: trust, motivation, communication, well-being, and concentration.
Many of the tasks in SmartGym use biofeedback (e.g. tracking heart rates, breathing rates and skin temperature using a smartphone) to demonstrate to children how stress affects their minds and bodies.
To date, we have piloted the use of SmartGym in two schools, Globe Academy in Southwark and Bridge Academy in the Tri-borough of Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea, with improvements in pupils’ attendance rates, academic results and behaviour.