In-Class Physical Activity Breaks
Take a break to sharpen students’ minds! 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'll get everyone motivated to move more all day. Excite students even more by pairing this Play with the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge!
Three- to five-minute breaks at the beginning or in the middle of class can get everyone energized and moving and can help students stay focused on learning in the process!i In addition, research has shown that short bouts of physical activity can help with attention, memory and cognition.ii
i Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: Helping All Students Achieve 60 Minutes of Physical Activity Each Day. A Position Statement. 2013. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
ii 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.
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 benefits. Then encourage students to start moving!
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.iii
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 — even if done in five-minute increments at the beginning or end of each hour in the school day — can help students get up to half their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity over the course of the day (outside of PE class).
iii 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.
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 a 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 and sustainable. 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 plan with students and teachers by putting up signs that explain how it works and how much fun it is. Make morning announcements that highlight some classes that are making it happen. Get the word out on your school's website, blog or eNewsletter.
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 percent 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 five-minute 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 about how this Play helps students learn
- 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!
This Play may help you meet the goals of the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge!
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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Funding and Outfitting Your Play
What might help?
- Jump ropes, kettle bells/hand weights, yoga mats, hula hoops, rubber stretch bands, mini-trampolines
- Indoor/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 wherein 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.
- Donation Request Letter Template