In Class Physical Activity Breaks — Good for Brain and Body!
Get up and move during class — taking a break for physical activity may help students concentrate!i All students can get active by adding short physical activity breaks during class every day. Whether you choose stretching and calisthenics, workout videos or dance breaks, you can get everyone motivated to move more all day. Excite students even more by pairing this Play with the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge!
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 can help students stay focused on learning in the process!ii iii In addition, some research has shown that short bouts of physical activity can help with attention, memory and cognition.iv v vi
iTaras, H. Physical activity and student performance at school. 2005. Journal of School Health 75.6: 214-218. Accessed March 21, 2017.
ii Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: Helping All Students Achieve 60 Minutes of Physical Activity Each Day. A Position Statement. 2013 (Updated 2015). Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America). Accessed March 2, 2017.
iii Jensen, E. Moving with the Brain in Mind. 2000. Educational Leadership. ASCD. Accessed March 21, 2017.
iv 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.
v 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 March 2, 2017.
vi The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 2, 2017.
Huddle up with your principal to give your plan a thumbs-up. Remember to gain the support of by explaining your plan and its potential benefits. Then encourage 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 prizes for the most popular activity idea.
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 NFL’s PLAY 60 Challenge can help.
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.v vi
Use the Tools and Resources below to create a short presentation that will help you make your case. Remember to emphasize that short bursts of physical activity can help students get up to half their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity — 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 (outside of PE class).
Learn about how other schools are implementing this Play by reading the success stories below. Here’s one idea that shows how students can really take the lead in helping classrooms enjoy variety in what they do.
v 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 March 2, 2017.
vi Jensen, E. Moving with the Brain in Mind. 2000. Educational Leadership. ASCD. Accessed March 21, 2017.
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 and lead in-class breaks and to work with students who may need assistance or confidence building. Encourage them to be sure all students are included. Have teachers encourage different students to lead the breaks each day and to 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!
Think long term. It is important to get buy-in from the whole community to really ingrain this program in your school. 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.
Spread the Word
Promote your progress with students and teachers by putting up signs that explain how it works and what’s happening as a result. Make morning announcements that highlight some classes that are making it happen. Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school eNewsletter (or newsletter) and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; IG and TW: @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!
This section has ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions, ideas on 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.
Everyone can help:
- 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 about how concentration may be improved immediately after children are physically active. Or physical activity can be added to curriculums without hindering students’ academic achievement.
- Work with local businesses to donate resources.
- Use these ideas on how to adapt activities to include all students.
Homefield Advantage provides useful, practical ways for parents and family members to get involved in making this Play a success — in school and at home! Click here for a printout that is ideal for students to take home and share!
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 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!
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HALLS FERRY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
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DAVID ELLIS ACADEMY-WEST
Physical Activity Breaks - Peer Teaching
We had members of our Student Leadership Team teach the younger grades different physical activity breaks in class. They also led several indoor recess activities.Read More
YOUNG OAK KIM ACADEMY
Physical Activity Breaks in the Class
We held a physical activity in the classroom contest among the teachers and offered a healthy snacks prize at the end of one month. We encouraged the use of GoNoodle and Jammin Minutes, and had teachers track activity on a sticker chart!Read More
LOVETTSVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
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Small lightweight exercise bicycles were purchased for each classroom with funds. Students can peddle while doing classwork. Ambassadors presented them to each class and demonstrated how they work.Read More
SHAWMUT HILLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
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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.