In-Class Physical Activity Breaks - Good For Mind and Body
Get up and move during class — taking a break for physical activity may help with some factors of student success!i All students can get active by adding short physical activity breaks during class every day. Whether you choose stretching, jumping jack, workout videos or dance breaks, you can get everyone motivated to move more all day. Excite students even more by having those with smart phones download the Play 60 App!
Short physical activity breaks throughout the day — for example, at the beginning or in the middle of class — can help students meet the goal of getting 60 minutes of physical activity each day, can get everyone energized and moving, and has been linked to indicators of academic performance!ii In addition, some research has shown that short bouts of physical activity can help with attention, memory and cognition.iii iv v
I The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 18, 2018.
iii Hillman, C., Pontifex, M., et al., The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. 2009. Neuroscience, 159(3): 1044–1054. Accessed January 20, 2018.
iv Do Short Physical Activity Breaks in Classrooms Work? A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. February 2013. Accessed January 20, 2018.
v The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 18, 2018.
Huddle up with your principal to give your plan a thumbs-up. Remember to gain the support of teachers by explaining your plan and its potential benefits. Then encourage students to start moving!
Students! Here are some things you can do to get things going!
- Host a series of short activity breaks in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Survey your peers to see what they think would be fun — a dance competition (get teachers involved!), a jump rope speed competition or other things.
- After you’ve built some interest, survey your schoolmates again for ideas of activities they think could be done in the classroom. Hold demonstration events in the cafeteria with music and offer prizes for the three most popular activity ideas.
- Think about ways you can get more people active. There are fun and exciting things many kids would want to do but are too shy, and others that those same kids might see as a fun challenge. For the jump rope example, make it a challenge to see who in your school can do better than this! Challenge all students to do something “outside the box,” showing everyone that any fun activity is just that — fun!
Download the NFL PLAY 60 App and get active and moving! Take real steps to move in the game, explore your surroundings, and find players to build your ultimate team. Meet over 150 cool characters dressed in your favorite NFL team gear. Are you ready to PLAY 60?
Credit: NFL Play 60 App
Build a team made up of students and PE teachers, your school wellness committee and others to brainstorm short, easy activities that can be done in class without equipment. Use your ideas to get people moving in a fun and creative way without taking up a lot of time. This set of ideas from the NFL can help.
Work with your teacher to download the PLAY 60 App and, if possible, project it on a classroom screen. Consider playing the game together as a class, building your team as you go. Think about having different classmates take on the identities of the players you collect along the way and work together to find out more about the positions they play. Plan the App physical activities you will share with classrooms as you implement this Play!
Make your case. Your first job is to get your principal and teachers to say yes! Present them with information about how a short burst of physical activity can help students get focused and ready to learn without disrupting the learning day.vii viii ix
Use the tools and resources below (especially the ideas in More on This Topic) to create a short presentation that will help you make your case. Work with some friends or Fuel Up to Play 60 teammates to create a video you can show to teacher, parents or community groups. Remember to emphasize that short bursts of physical activity can help students get up to half of their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day — for example, if done in five-minute increments at the beginning or end of each hour in the school day, this adds up to 30 minutes over the course of the day (not including PE class).
vi Do Short Physical Activity Breaks in Classrooms Work? A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; February 2013. Accessed February 18, 2018.
vii Jensen, E., Moving with the Brain in Mind. 2000. Educational Leadership. ASCD. Accessed February 18, 2018.
viii The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 18, 2018.
Draft a few teachers to try out your plan by joining the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge — a program that inspires kids to get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day in school and at home — and tell other teachers how it went.
Build opportunities for student leadership. Get volunteers from your Fuel Up to Play 60 team to visit classrooms to lead in-class breaks and work with students who may need assistance or confidence building. Encourage them to be sure all students are included. Have teachers ask different students to lead the breaks each day and come up with ideas for routines they would like to try.
Work with your school administration to set up times during the week when the whole school participates. Maybe you can start a Dance Walk routine for students to do as they walk to lunch, between classes or on their way out of school. Or work with your school's sports teams and cheerleaders to come up with some school-spirit dance competitions. Dance is a low-cost way to get people moving — and it’s fun!
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Credit: Fuel Up to Play 60
Think long term. It is important to get buy-in from the whole community to really ingrain this program in your school. Take your video on the road to get parents and community members involved as activity volunteers! Think about starting with lower grades first and adding a new grade level each week. Talk to the PE team about reinforcing the idea during PE classes and practicing some easy-to-do activities with students so they are used to doing them when they get back to the smaller space in the classroom. Here is an easy activity that can be used at the beginning of the year in particular, but helps students get some low-level activity while also getting to know one another better. (Note that the ball in this linked activity is available for purchase, but a playground ball and a Sharpie™ work just as well).
Think outside the box. Lots of offices and other workplaces are transitioning to the use of “stand-up desks.” In schools, while it’s not a physical activity, it is another way to get students out of their seats! Some Fuel Up to Play 60 schools have already tried it. Consider this story from a middle school in Miami, Florida, or this example from Ridgely Elementary School in Illinois.
Spread the Word
Promote individual classroom successes with students and teachers by putting up signs that explain how the idea of classroom breaks works and what’s happening as a result. Make morning announcements that highlight some classes that are participating. Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school newsletter and student newspaper, and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; TW and IG: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!
Promote the plan at home. Make sure parents know about this Play and encourage students to continue the idea at home. Take a quick break during homework or chores, or get the whole family moving for a few minutes each day before or after mealtime!
Get feedback. Ask students to choose their favorite activities. Take a poll or ask students to leave feedback for the team in a “comment box” in the PE office. Ask teachers about what works best for their classes. Don’t forget to ask students if the program is getting them to change their habits outside of school, too.
See how Southside Middle School is spreading the word about their experience with this Play, and get some ideas of your own!
Be a leader. You know everyone should get 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but do they? Do you? Do your best to help your peers reach their daily quota while you stay active yourself. Figure out activities that can motivate your peers to get up and move — even when someone’s watching! Push-ups? Jump rope? Dance contests? You can find something for everyone.
This section features ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions, how to include students and adults or ways to bring in the family connection.
Encourage friendly competitions between teachers and classes to see which classrooms can get 100% participation. Have classes come up with activity ideas they can share with other classes. Hold a school assembly and let classes take the stage to show what short activities they love to do.
- Come up with activity ideas.
- Create interesting posters and announcements to spread the word.
- Talk about fun activities with friends and classmates to get them on board.
- Remind teachers that classroom-based physical activity has been linked to indicators of academic performance.ix And that physical activity can be added to the curriculum and may help students stay on task during class time.x
- Work with local businesses to donate resources.
- Use these ideas on how to adapt activities to include all students.
ix The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 18, 2018.
x Do Short Physical Activity Breaks in Classrooms Work? A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. February 2013. Accessed February 18, 2018.
Build Local Community
Invite parents, community members and local business personnel to come to school once a week to participate in your classroom activity events. They can show students that they are committed to physical activity AND that they want the same for the kids. Many businesses encourage their employees to participate in community volunteer activities. One volunteer can work with multiple teachers and spread breaks out over one particular class period. When the volunteer arrives, students know it’s time to get up and move!
Help Build the Whole Fuel Up to Play 60 Community
Encourage students to log on to their Dashboard and report activity to achieve Level Three (30,000 Points) and be named a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador! Having ambassadors at your school will help get more students involved and make your Play a success!
Homefield Advantage: Check out this resource and share it with parents so they can see what they can do to help at home and at school.
Just getting started? Here is something you can do without jumping right into the full Play. Let this idea get you warmed up so you’re ready to tackle the full Play!
Work with one or two classroom teachers to get them to pilot the program. Make fun videos of students participating and be sure to include the before and after classroom environment so teachers can see how this Play can be done in an orderly way without disrupting learning. Experiment with doing the breaks before, during or after a lesson to see what works best. Then show the video to other teachers and classes to build interest! Middle and high school students might be more hesitant to participate. Survey those students on what types of activities would inspire them to join in.
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Funding and Outfitting Your Play
What might help?
- Jump ropes, kettle bells, hand weights, yoga mats, hula hoops, rubber stretch bands, mini-trampolines
- Indoor or rainy day recess boxes
- Activity CDs or DVDs
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60
Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kickstart healthy changes!
Check with local retailers to see if they will help create classroom activity break “kits.” Perhaps they have a matching program in which your school purchases half of what you need to get each classroom moving and your retail partner donates the other half. Check out these upper and lower grade videos that show how simple a kit like this could be.