During School

  • What are Physical Activity Breaks?

    Physical activity breaks, also known as brain breaks, are short, energized bursts of acute activity that boost blood flow, send oxygen to the brain, help kids retain information and increase physical activity levels throughout the school day. These breaks allow students to have a breather from learning through movement and exercise. Movement increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the brain and leads to improved brain function. Using physical activity breaks in the classroom helps children improve concentration, memory and classroom behavior. Physical activity breaks can be used to energize a group after lunch or relax and calm a class before a test, after lunch or at the end of the day.

    A brain break can be as simple as a five-minute stretch or walk in the classroom; however, evidence supports that 15-20 minutes of activity result in, the biggest benefit of, improved cognitive function. Brain breaks are evidence-based and their efficacy has been scientifically proven. In one study, findings indicate that a 20-minute walk resulted in significantly increased brain activity compared to the brain activity of a student who was sedentary (Hillman et al 2009). This resulted in improved performance on reading, spelling and arithmetic tests. In another study, students who normally performed poorly on attention tasks improved their accuracy when tested shortly after 20-minutes of walking on a treadmill (Drollette et al 2014).

    Click here to learn more about the role of schools with youth physical activity.

    What does the research show? Click here to learn about the positive associations between classroom-based physical activity and academic performance.

    Click the resources listed below to download:

  • Brain Break Success Story: William Penn School District

    The Pennsylvania Department of Health granted funding to PRO Wellness via two federal funding sources to facilitate the Building Healthy Schools Grant Program. Eighty-one schools across 15 districts in Pennsylvania were impacted by this grant program. During the initiative William Penn School District completing a district-wide wellness assessment. After reviewing results, the wellness council identified the need to integrate more physical activity opportunities into the school day. Prepared with evidence of a link between physical activity and academic performance, the wellness council approached the school board, who prioritized this need and decided to mandate 15-minute brain breaks for all students in grades K-12.

    After William Penn School District’s new brain break mandate, teachers expressed improved academic achievement. Carol Poplawski, a second-grade teacher at Park Lane Elementary School found great success in integrating brain breaks. After students return from 90-minutes in the library, she uses a brain break to help them transition into the math lesson for the day. She has noticed that the brain breaks have helped students focus on difficult math lessons and she attributes outstanding test scores to the brain breaks. She also uses brain breaks as a reward for students after completion of a challenging test or lesson. Improved test scores, better focus, improved behavior and improved gross motor skills are some of the benefits that Poplawski has noticed since integrating these guided activity breaks into her class.

    Not only do these activities help students focus and get extra physical activity during the day, but the students love participating and are even using the activities at home. Poplawski introduced brain breaks and the activity tool to parents during back to school night and frequently receives positive feedback from both parents and students. Furthermore, she has shared her successes with her school faculty in the hopes that other educators will see the utility in brain breaks and continue implementing them in their classrooms. Poplawki recognizes that the support of the administration has been vital to the integration of brain breaks and is grateful for the extra time in her schedule to offer this tool to her students.

    Click here to watch a spotlight on William Penn School District.

  • Types of Physical Activity Breaks

    There are a few different ways of including physical activity into the classroom. The following sections provide great tips and ideas to help you develop a plan that will work best with your students.

    Classic Classroom Physical Activity Breaks: The most traditional way of implementing physical activity breaks in the classroom is to simply repeat a form of exercise. Jumping jacks, running in place, arm circles and squats are all classic examples. Consider what might work in the space you have and engage your students by asking them what they like to do.

    Click here to download our Deskercises Infographic Poster.

    Phantom Sports:

    • On 5-10 index cards write down various sports actions (i.e. throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball, swimming, hitting a baseball).
    • Engage your students by having them pick a card from the pile to read out loud.
    • As a class, act out the activity repeatedly as a class until the next card is chosen. 

    Take the Long Way: End your lesson a few minutes early and suggest that your students take a longer route to get to their next class. If this new route includes stairs – even better! 

    Active Learning: Physical activity breaks can also be incorporated into teaching and reviewing academic content. Teachers who are short on time may consider this method, as it doesn’t require a complete break from academics but still provides students an opportunity to move around. Consider using this style in math class where a student reports out an answer and performs the corresponding number of arm circles, or when reviewing spelling words where students can squat with a correct response and balance on one foot for an incorrect response. The Active Academics website is a great resource for incorporating physical activity into your classroom lessons.

    Stretching and Mindfulness: While stretching and mindfulness are not physical activity breaks that increase heart rate, they serve equally important roles in the wellness of students. These breaks can be particularly useful before or after an exam or when transitioning between subjects. Deep breathing, silent meditation and calm stretching are just a few examples.

    You may also find these techniques useful as a tool to refocus after more vigorous physical activity breaks. While useful, these are not considered physical activity breaks but are more commonly known as brain breaks.

  • How to Incorporate Classroom Physical Activity Breaks

    An innovative way to increase a child’s minutes of physical activity during the school day is to incorporate physical activity breaks. These 5 to 20-minute sessions can vary widely in implementation style, but ultimately allow a student to increase their heart rate, have a mental break and refocus on the next task. Consider these tips to successfully incorporate physical activity breaks in the classroom.

    • Create a positive and motivational environment around physical activity.
    • Use a clap or other cue to let students know that a physical activity break is starting or finishing.
    • Use physical activity breaks as a reward for good behavior or test scores.
    • Use music to calm students down at the end of a physical activity break.
    • Start with simple activities until a routine is established.
    • Assign students a partner to walk around the room while discussing a question.
    • Read a story and have the students act out verbs sitting or standing.
    • Play Simon Says to teach important listening skills.
  • How to Overcome Classroom Barriers

    Incorporating physical activity breaks into your classroom may come with concerns or perceived challenges. Maybe you worry about the time involved or if these breaks will be too distracting to your students. View commonly perceived barriers and how to overcome them below.

    • “I don’t have time.” — While a brief adjustment period is common, many teachers who use daily physical activity breaks find that they become part of the routine. By becoming a standard part of the daily schedule, the breaks require limited additional time to implement.
    • “Physical activity breaks would cause my students to lose focus.” Consider the minutes traded as an exponential gain in “on task” time, as students are able to attain better focus for academic activities as a result of physical activity breaks. When planning activity breaks in your classroom consider these tips for managing your classroom:
      • Set expectations
      • Arrange the classroom
      • Use cues
      • Set time limits
      • Be firm
      • Start small
      • Use a stretching or mindfulness activity as a way to calm a class down after a more vigorous activity.
    • “Middle/High schoolers will think physical activity breaks are silly.” This group in particular would benefit from physical activity breaks because they don’t get recess. Consider asking the group what they would like to do, and don’t forget that even big kids like to act like kids! Use lesson review time as an opportunity to engage students in physical activity. Click here to view activities that will engage middle and high schoolers.
    • “Some of my students may struggle with fitness.” Select physical activity breaks that are inclusive so that every student is able to participate. Encourage students to modify the activity to what feels right to them. It’s less about doing it perfectly, and more about getting up and moving.
    • “My classroom is tight on space.” Select activities that can be performed in small spaces or consider having your students find a designated space that they go to when it’s time to participate in a physical activity break. Consider hallway space or holding your physical activity breaks at a time of day where your class can visit a larger unused space, like the cafeteria, gymnasium or school lobby.
  • National Guidelines for Recess Standards

    Recess helps students to achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity that can improve strength and endurance; enhance academic achievement; and increase self-esteem for children and adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America have developed new guidance documents that provide schools with 19 evidence-based strategies for recess, as well as a planning guide and template to help develop a written recess plan that integrates these strategies.

    Click the resources listed below to download:

  • 4 Hidden Benefits of Recess

    According to Rasmussen College, it may seem counterintuitive to send kids out to play when they’re falling below state standards, but recess advocates argue that getting outside for unstructured play may be more beneficial than keeping kids in the classroom all day.

    “When schools choose to cut recess, they should consider the benefits they are cutting also and evaluate if the reasons for cutting recess outweigh these benefits,” says Marie Conti, head of The Wetherill School and member of the American Montessori Society board of directors. Consider the following hidden benefits that highlight the importance of recess:

    • Physical activity may improve brain function
    • Recess promotes social skills. Recess also offers the chance for children to strengthen their leadership and negotiation skills, and it can prevent bullying
    • Recess fights childhood obesity
    • Recess reduces stress

    Click here to learn more about the crucial role of recess.

    What does the research show? Click here to learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ beliefs regarding the necessity of recess for a child’s development.

    Click the resources listed below to download:

    Original source: https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/education/blog/importance-of-recess/

  • Alternatives to Withholding Recess or Physical Activity as Punishment

    Physical activity during the school day helps improve student learning, social-emotional skills and attention during class. However, recess and physical education are often taken away as punishment for students who don’t complete homework or act out in class. Often times, these are the students that need physical activity the most. Teachers and parents can do their part to ensure students get the activity they need by implementing healthy alternative consequences.

    Action for Healthy Kids® provides the following recommendations for alternative disciplinary Measures. Click here to download these tips in a printable PDF.

    Alternative Disciplinary Measures

    Here are some ways to discipline kids and offer teachable moments. Students can:

    • Clean up the mess they made or remedy the situation for which they are being punished (natural consequence).
    • Write an essay on what they did wrong and how to behave better next time (reflection and self-evaluation).
    • Write an apology letter to the person who has been wronged. Use it as an opportunity to discuss the importance of seeking and giving forgiveness.
    • Miss a class trip or school event if they cannot behave properly (loss of a privilege).
    • Do community service.
    • Stay late after school for detention.
    • Have credit deducted for homework that is turned in late.

    Positive Classroom Management Techniques

    Positive classroom management techniques can be used to avoid behavior problems all together. By reinforcing positive behaviors and setting clear expectations, students are less likely to misbehave.

    • Include students in establishing classroom expectations and outcomes; review expectations frequently.
    • Be consistent with enforcing behavioral expectations
    • Reward positive behavior:
      • Trip to treasure box filled with non-food items such as stickers, pencils, erasers, bookmarks, school supplies, etc. for good behavior
      • Access to items that can only be used on special occasions as a reward for good behavior such as special art supplies, games or toys
      • Special privileges for good behavior such as having lunch with the teacher or friends

    Visit Action for Healthy Kids® for additional take action tips and resources.

    Click on the resources listed below to download:

    Original source: https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/activity/alternatives-to-denying-physical-activity-as-punishment/

Physical Activity and Recess in Schools

View Video

Quality Physical Education (PE) in Schools

View Video

Move it Outside with CSPAP!

View Video

Penn State LionPulse fitness video

View Video

Energy Balance Infographic Poster

Download

Energy Balance Quick Tips (English)

Download

Energy Balance Quick Tips (Spanish)

Download

Deskercises Infographic Poster

Download

Health and Academics Infographic

Download

Exercise for Life Infographic Poster

Download

Get Your 60 Infographic Poster

Download

Importance of Recess Infographic Poster

Download

Aerobic Activity Guide

Download

Anaerobic Activity Guide

Download

Bone-Strengthening Activity Guide

Download

Cognitive Activity Guide

Download

Muscle-Strengthening Activity Guide

Download

Action For Healthy Kids

Tips to help integrate physical activity both in and out of the classroom.

View Resource

Active Academics

Resources for PreK - 5th grade classroom teachers to provide practical physical activity ideas that can be integrated into regular classroom content areas. Get students "up and moving" while still engaged in the academic learning process. The standards-based activity ideas utilize the Common Core Standards as well as national standards.

View Resource

Active Schools

Interested in exploring new strategies for inspiring the parents of your students to support active, healthy lifestyles in and out of school? From back to school events and family fitness nights to cultivating active school environments, the practical guide is full of links to real life examples — such as newsletters, bulletin boards, presentations, videos, and more — that you can use to promote the power of physical education and physical activity. Read about best practices and and put them to work for your school.

View Resource

Alliance for a Healthier Generation: Activities During the School Day

Select the “Physical Activity” topic area after logging in to explore videos, printables, websites and curricula designed to help you make healthy changes at your school or in an out-of-school time environment.

View Resource

American Heart Association In School Activity Breaks

Nearly 135, three-five minute physical activity ideas that can be incorporated into any classroom.

View Resource

CDC – BAM!

BAM! Body and Mind is a CDC created interactive website that provides games and quizzes for kids (9-12 years old), and resources for parents and teachers. BAM! provides great resources that can be incorporated into the classroom and at home to promote physical activity, nutrition, and can help educate kids on diseases.

View Resource

CDC’s Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool

The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) is a self-assessment and planning guide developed by CDC. It is designed to help school districts and schools conduct clear, complete and consistent analyses of physical education curricula, based upon national physical education standards.

View Resource

Fuel Up to Play 60

Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) is a leading national in-school health and wellness program launched by the National Football League (NFL) and National Dairy Council(NDC), which was founded by America's dairy farmers, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Fuel Up to Play 60's primary focus is to help schools meet their wellness goals and encourage youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains and lean protein foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

View Resource

GoNoodle

This free, web-based tool provides teachers with hundreds of physical activity break games. These activities lead students in dancing, stretching, jumping, moving and relaxing.

View Resource

OPEN National Trainers

any physical educators are coping with limited equipment options due to natural disasters, cut budgets, or program neglect at the district level. As a response, OPEN National Trainers published a module for K-12 physical educators who are looking for outcomes-based activity options with limited equipment. Membership is free and provides access to hundreds of outcomes-based resources. Click here to access the module - http://activeschools.cmail19.com/t/d-l-uiukklk-vkkkryduy-w/

View Resource

Railyard Fitness

Access a free 50-page manual filled with 46 functional bodyweight exercises, teachable moments, lesson plans for ground and functional obstacle course workouts, and teacher assessment forms. Ideal for all children ages 5 and up, these lesson plans/workouts that do not require any equipment. Download the free guide - http://f23b10fe70d85f30e0f0-4f5da533766e95ff435623c642d0af71.r13.cf1.rackcdn.com/Railyard_Manual_Revision_March_2012.pdf

View Resource

SHAPE America Recess Toolkit

Resources for teachers and school staff to start the discussion of getting recess back into their schools. Provides guides and other resources for completing resources.

View Resource