Active School Lesson Breaks Increase Daily Vigorous Physical Activity, but Not Daily Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity in Elementary School Boys

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 Samson Institute for Health Research
  • 2 University of South Australia
  • 3 National Centre for Vocational Education Research
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Brief classroom-based episodes of physical activity (active lesson breaks, ALBs) have improved schoolchildren’s classroom behaviors in some studies, and may also increase the likelihood of children meeting the recommended daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). However, there is emerging evidence that increases in physical activity at particular times of the day may lead to compensatory declines at other times. This study explored evidence for compensatory declines in response to a 10 min ALB during the school day.


Thirty-eight 12-year-old boys from a single elementary school completed intervention and control conditions in a cross-over design, with each phase lasting one week. The intervention consisted of a single 10-min active lesson break delivered on each of three days in the intervention week. Twenty-four hour accelerometry was used to quantify moderate and vigorous physical activity.


ALBs increased in-school MVPA by 5.8 min (p < .0001), but overall daily MVPA was similar between intervention and control conditions (77.2 vs 77.4 min/d, p > .05), However, vigorous physical activity increased significantly over the whole day (11.2 vs 8.9 min, p = .0006).


A brief episode of classroom-based play led to a modest increase in vigorous physical activity in elementary school students, but did not increase MVPA across the day.

Wilson, Olds, and Dollman are with the Samson Institute for Health Research—Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA), Adelaide, Australia. Lushington is with the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. Parvazian is with the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Adelaide, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Andrew N. Wilson at