Physical Activity Improves Classroom Behavior

It takes just four minutes of physical activity to help a child focus for at least 50 minutes of classroom learning time, according to a recent study from Queen's University in Canada.

In Ontario, where the study took place, elementary schools are required to have twenty minutes of daily physical activity (DPA), so the researchers said they wanted to determine the best way to use that time.

"Given the time crunch associated with the current school curriculum we thought that very brief physical activity breaks might be an interesting way to approach DPA," Dr. Brendon Gurd, lead researcher and professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University told PsychCentral. "We were particularly interested in what effects a brief exercise bout might have in the classroom setting."

Researchers evaluated small groups of second and fourth graders in their classrooms, giving them either 10-minute breaks with no activity in between or 4-minute "FUNtervals" within their 10-minute breaks that consisted of "a high-intensity interval protocol."

Activities included lunges, squats, and jumps as part of a fun "task" like imagining making s'mores, PsychCentral reports, with "a 20-second storyline of quick, enthusiastic movements followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight intervals." None of the activities required extra equipment; all took place inside the classroom.

The study found that fidgeting, drawing, and restlessness decreased significantly after the activity.

Photo of kids at recess courtesy of Shutterstock.