From the Editor-in-Chief . . .
Physical activity in the classroom has been a topic of increased interest as a method of improving overall physical activity during the school day, especially with elementary school children. Some interventions link academic curriculum with the activity and others provide activity alone (brain breaks). Hillman and colleagues (1,2) have provided considerable evidence that physical activity is linked to positive influences in cognitive function; however, it remains challenging to provide a sufficient amount and intensity of activity in a classroom setting as there are many challenges including the perception of interfering with learning, environmental constraints, and teachers willingness and ability to provide classroom activity. The optimal amount and type of activity in the classroom also remains unknown in terms of fostering learning or providing increases in fitness.
It should be noted that physical activity and fitness are worthy pursuits regardless of improvement in learning, however it is difficult to separate the two as the school is charged with educating students. Regardless, the literature overwhelmingly indicates classroom physical activity does not diminish learning as the great majority of the literature indicates neutral or positive effects on learning (refs).
In this issue of the journal, Beemer and colleagues have provided an interesting approach to increase physical activity in the elementary school classroom by using multiple short 3-minute breaks of moderate-to-vigorous teacher led physical activity with a target of 10 breaks/day. This approach varies from the typical provision of 10 or 15-minute breaks, 2 to 3 times/day. Shorter breaks can be spaced throughout the day, offered during natural breaks in the academic routine, and require less ability of the teacher to manage and manipulate the various activities offered during the break. They also manipulated the classroom design to best fit teaching styles and maximize floor space for physical activity- an interesting idea given the effect of environment is known to influence participation in physical activity. The extensive training of teachers, pilot tested moderate-to-vigorous physical activity routines, classroom manipulations, and rich process analysis makes this article an interesting and significant contribution to the existing literature on classroom physical activity.
- Hillman, CH, Pontifex, MB, Castelli, DM, et al. Effects on the FITKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function. Pediatrics 2014;13(4): 1063-71.
- Hillman, CH, Pontifex, MB, Raine, LB, Castelli, DM, Hall, EE, Kramer, AF. The Effect of Acute Treadmill Walking on Cognitive Control and Academic Achievement in Preadolescent Children. Neuroscience 2009; 159(3): 1044-54.
Joseph E. Donnelly, EdD, FACSM