What we have been up to in March at little BIG fitness

A snippet of what the kids have been up to in March.

This months theme was ‘me’, and the kids built a book about themselves. Class time was devoted to different body parts and what they can do (eg. hands, feet, heads, next week will be bodies). Lots of writing, drawing, some beautiful colouring in and quite a few stickers were involved! We also read books with the group as a closing activity to tie in with the days theme and activities.

For the fundamental movement skills we practiced kicking, throwing and catching and obstacle courses. We also had a great game of football with the kids as a warm up for the mums before their exercise session. A lot more of the adult warm ups will involve games with the kids, so everyone is participating- also, its lots of fun!

Here are a couple of pictures from Sam’s ‘me’ book. I will post up pics of what the other kids have been up to in the next week or so.

photo 2 photo 3

Sam & drew rainbows!

Training Your Brain

Train Your Brain

By Simon Usborne

‘We don’t need to be told that exercise is good for us. We know that it combats cholesterol, we know boosts our hearts and we know it stops the pounds from piling on. But, beyond the obvious physical benefits of a good cycle, run or swim, a growing body of evidence suggests that getting breathless can also build the brain.

“Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” which will be published later this year, shows how even regular brisk walks can boost memory, alleviate stress, enhance intelligence and allay aggression. John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the book’s author, says that exercise stimulates our gray matter to produce what he calls “Miracle-Gro” for the brain. “I can’t understate how important regular exercise is in improving the function and performance of the brain,” he says. “It’s such a wonderful medicine.”

If the mere thought of trudging round ice-bound playing fields at school was enough to bring you out in a cold sweat, the idea that exercise makes us happy might sound perverse. But, beyond the (potential) mood-lifting effects of fresh air and scenery, evidence suggests that pounding the pavement can also change the way our brains work to make us happier, or even stave off depression. “Exercise is as good as any anti-depressant I know,” Ratey claims.

Last December, scientists from Yale University wrote in the journal Nature Medicine that regular exertion affects the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for mood. Tests on mice showed that exercise activated a gene there called VGF, which is linked to a “growth factor” chemical involved in the development of new nerve cells. Tests show that this brain activation lifts a person’s mood. Participants in one recent German survey were asked to walk quickly on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day over a 10-day period. At the end of the experiment, researchers recorded a significant drop in depression scores. Scientists are now working on a drug that mimics the effects of the VGF gene to market it as an alternative to conventional antidepressants.

If, by around 4pm, it feels as if a stressful day at work has turned your brain to blancmange, it might not only be due to overwork or a shortage of double espressos. We respond to stress in the same way our ancestors did — by adopting a “fight or flight” response. Adrenalin and other hormones are released into our bloodstreams and our muscles are primed for response. The problem is that, these days, stress is more likely to be brought on by a tricky PowerPoint presentation or a job interview than an attack by marauding lions, so the toxins that build up for a physical response have no outlet. The results can be good; the cardiovascular system is accelerated and we can work harder (for a while, at least), but others are not so good; stress slows down the gastrointestinal system and reduces appetite, and can overexcite the brain, fuzzing our thought. By responding to or anticipating stress with fight (kickboxing or judo, say) or flight (30 minutes on the treadmill, say, or 50 lengths of the pool), blood flow to the brain is increased, allowing the body to purge the potentially toxic by-products of stress. According to Ratey, exercise also helps in the long term. “It builds up armies of antioxidants such as Vitamins E and C,” he says. “These help brain cells protect us from future stress.”

Observers of sports might refute the claim that exercise leads to greater intelligence — and they would be partly right, says Ratey. “Exercise doesn’t make you smarter, but what it does do is optimise the brain for learning.”

Physical activity boosts the flow of blood to the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning, promoting the production of new brain cells. Several schools in the U.S. and the Netherlands have taken note. Pupils at Naperville Central High School near Chicago, for example, start the day with a fitness class they call “Zero Hour PE”. Equipped with heart monitors, they run laps of the playground, and teachers say exam results have soared since the keep-fit initiative kicked off.

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, a test involving 241 people, aged 15-71, compared physical activity with the results of cognitive tasks. The researchers documented improved results among people who were more active, especially those in younger age groups.

Yet more research suggests that exercise boosts intelligence in the very, very young. Experiments on rats at the Delbrck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin showed that baby rats born to mothers who were more active during pregnancy had 40 percent more cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for intelligence. If the same is true in humans, we can expect Paula Radcliffe’s baby, Isla, to be a genius; Radcliffe was training for the New York marathon until the day before she went in to hospital to be induced — and won the race just nine months after giving birth.

A few rounds with a punching bag or a game of squash are great ways to release pent-up aggression, but exercise does more than “get it out your system,” says John Ratey. “People assume exercise reduces aggression by burning energy. In fact, exercise changes your brain so you don’t feel aggressive in the first place.”

The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that decides whether you throw a punch or take something on the chin. Reduced activity in the region, a trauma or abnormal development can result in an inability to control violent urges. “This area makes us evaluate the consequences of our actions,” Ratey says. “It’s the part of the brain that puts the brakes on when the ref makes a terrible decision and you want to beat him up.” Exercise increases activity in that area, boosting rational thought, which makesus less likely to lash out.

Most of the competitors at the annual World Memory Championships could hardly be described as the epitome of physical fitness but, according to Ratey and other scientists in the field, a good workout does much to boost recall, especially as we clock up the years.

“When we’re exercising, we’re using nerve cells in the brain which help build up what I call brain fertilizer,” he says. Ratey is talking about new research that suggests exercise increases blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for memory, and improves its function. In MRI scans on mice, conducted last year by neurologists at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, the animals were shown to grow new brain cells in the dentate gyrus, which is affected in age-related memory decline.

Research on humans is ongoing but Ratey is convinced that physical activity has a similar effect. He says: “Exercise does more than anything we know of to boost memory.”

Smokers keen to quit cigarettes probably won’t celebrate the news that exercise could be the key to a cigarette-free life. But research by British scientists suggests that as little as five minutes of brisk walking can reduce the intensity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In the tests, researchers asked participants to rate their need for a cigarette after various types of physical exertion. Those who had exercised reported a reduced desire to smoke. “If we found the same effects in a drug, it would immediately be sold as an aid to help people quit smoking,” Adrian Taylor, the study’s lead author at the University of Exeter, said last year.

The principle is that exercise can stimulate production of the mood-enhancing hormone dopamine, which can, in turn, reduce smokers’ dependence on nicotine. “Dopamine works by replacing or satisfying the need for nicotine,” Ratey explains.

Whether the findings will lead office-based smokers to dash out for a jog remains to be seen. After all, you wouldn’t want to get addicted to exercise.

How Much Do You Need?
You don’t have to become a marathon runner to benefit your brain. The mainstay of exercise is simple, brisk walking, Professor Ratey says.

You’ll feel the benefit even from a 30-minute walk. “That’s what people need to be doing as a minimum, ideally four or five times a week. If you want to do more, then great.”

Professor Ratey also recommends interval training — really pushing yourself hard for between 20 and 30 seconds while running, cycling or swimming, so that you are momentarily exhausted.

Do, say, two minutes of walking, 30 seconds’ sprinting, then two minutes of walking again. It doesn’t have to be a lot for a long time, but you will really notice the difference. “The side effects on the body aren’t bad either — I lost 10 pounds in no time,” Professor Ratey says.’

to view the original article:

Boosting your brain power

Fiteracy programs encourage movement to boost brain chemicals and also learning to boost brain pathways. One of the researchers Fiteracy Facilitators investigate is Dr John Ratey and his research into exercise and the brain.

12 ways to boost your brain power:

Other articles by John Ratey

March at little BIG fitness

Every month, I will add the fiteracy theme and an outline of the lesson plans for that block. As we progress through the theme, I will post pictures of what the kids are doing. Because they are awesome!


SESSION 1: (Demo)

WELCOME: Parachute welcome & introduce selves.


Book building: the ME book. Make a cover for your book. Write your name on the cover. You can decorate the cover however you like- you can draw or stick favorite things, use glitter or stickers, draw or stick a face. You can START this in class and finish it at home.

Hand: draw around your hand. Write what it is and how old you are. What can you do with your hands? Can you wave? Can you spread your fingers wide or close your hand into a fist? What are your hands good for? Eating? Picking up interesting things? Pass your books around so everyone can see them.


0 -2yo: practice rolling a ball to and from another baby say each babies name when you are going to roll to them. This will help develop fine motor skills, eye tracking, recognition of name and sharing concepts.

2-5 years old: practice throwing and catching a ball in pairs.

SONG: ‘dem bones. Head, shoulders knees & toes.

BOOK: the nice book.

HOMEWORK: Stick or draw a picture of you in your book & decorate it. Write your name.


WELCOME: Parachute welcome. Show & tell homework, pass around your books.

Feet. Draw around your feet & decorate the picture. What can you use your feet for? Can you kick a ball? Can you stand on your feet? Can you stand on one foot? Can you wiggle your toes? Lets do this little piggy/ puppy. Can you kick a ball?


0-2yo: parents help children kick a ball to each other, taking turns & saying each persons name as you kick the ball.

2-5yo: kick the ball to each other in pairs. Try to kick the ball to each other from your dots to the finish line marker.

SONGS: dem bones. Head, shoulders knees & toes.


HOMEWORK: What are a few of your favorite things? Draw or stick pictures in your book of some of your favorite things (food, activities, objects, colours, whatever YOU like). Write and say the names of these things.

Session 3:

WELCOME: Parachute welcome. Show & tell homework, pass around your books.

FACES: draw a face- what things have you got on your face & what can you do with them. Where are your eyes? Can you roll your eyes & look side to side? Look up and down? What about your mouth- what can you do with your mouth? Can you- eat? Poke out your tongue? Chomp! Where is your nose? What does your nose do? Can you wiggle your nose? Can you make a funny face? Can you waggle your head from side to side? Can you roll your head?

BOOK: Grumpy Gertie.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Ball skills- basketball.

Line up on dots to start. One child holds the ‘net’ and another throws ball into the net, parents help younger children.


Session 4:

WELCOME: Parachute welcome. Show & tell homework, pass around your books.

BODIES: draw a BODY- what things have you got on your body & what can you do with them? Where are your arms? Can you wave your arms or do arm circles- can you flap your arms like a bird? Can you bend them? What about your legs- what can you do with your legs? Can you swing them back & forth and side to side? Can you you’re your knees? Can you jump and hop? Can you run and walk? What about your middle? Can you circle your hips or wiggle them from side to side? Can you twist? Can you bend? Can you put it all together and do a wiggly dance?

BOOK: Giraffes Can’t Dance.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Lets dance! Shake a tail-feather!

SONGS: ‘Dem Bones. Head, Shoulders Knees & Toes. Shake a Tail-feather.


Welcome to little BIG fitness.

At little BIG fitness, my aim is to foster early literacy and language skills and promote family health and attachment in a creative, supportive and low anxiety environment.

Who my classes cater for? 

I cater to families with small children and adults of every age.

Why I have created Little Big?

This is an opportunity for EVERY BODY to benefit from safe and effective exercise in a low anxiety setting, which will help you reap the benefits for body and mind alike. Little BIG fitness is about long-term health benefits, rather than a quick fix.

About Joanne Turner

My own history consists of a long list of studies, which has led to combining my interests and talents into Little Big fitness.

But my most life changing experience is being a Mum, and as such, I know how hard it is to make time to lead a healthy life, how important and sometimes challenging being a role model is, and how flat out exhausting, rewarding, exhilarating and amazing an experience it is. The combination of all my skills makes me passionate about sharing my own experience and knowledge with others, and to help EVERY BODY to participate in a creative, safe and effective exercise and learning environment.

What makes my classes unique?

Fiteracy graduate to Fiteracy Facilitator

During the early years of my son’s life I enrolled in a program that encouraged a creative approach to health and learning for my son whilst also allowing me to get my fitness back.

This program was called the Baby Fiteracy program, which assisted my son to develop a love for creativity and taught me about the benefits of low anxiety learning environments.

Step forward 3 years, and Little Big is the first approved facilitator to deliver Fiteracy concepts to other families in the Sunshine Coast area.

I chose to deliver Fiteracy through fitness and art whilst other facilitators may chose music or healthy eating, but the beauty is we all now work as a team of passionate parents delivering our own children’s health programs

Fiteracy programs aim to support parents and carers in their role of being their child’s greatest teacher and also link all movement activities to early language development.

What do classes that include FITERACY feature?

Classes that include Fiteracy teaching tools will involve parents and carers being involved in drawing, reading and movement activities with their children.

We give you the tools to help you and your child flourish.

Qualifications & currencies

Fiteracy Facilitator (currently in training).

Cert III in Fitness (2013)

First Aid Certificate (current)

Blue Card (current)

Cert IV Training and Assessment (2011)

Bachelor of Arts: Visual Art (2009)

Cert III, IV & Diploma of visual arts in both painting and ceramics (1999- 2005)

Registered nursing (1992).

Joanne is also a registered member of Fitness Australia (registration no. 082688) and as such partakes in continual professional development activities.