Article

A citizen science study of short physical activity breaks at school: improvements in cognition and wellbeing with self-paced activity

Citation

Booth JN, Chesham RA, Brooks NE, Gorely T & Moran CN (2020) A citizen science study of short physical activity breaks at school: improvements in cognition and wellbeing with self-paced activity. BMC Medicine, 18 (1), Art. No.: 62. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-020-01539-4

Abstract
Background School-based physical activity and running programmes, such as The Daily Mile™, are increasing in popularity globally. The aim of this research was to examine the acute impact of such classroom physical activity breaks on cognition and affective wellbeing. Methods A total of 5463 school pupils from 332 schools took part in a citizen science project with a repeated measures design. They completed tasks of cognition (inhibition, verbal, and visuo-spatial working memory) and the Children’s Feeling Scale and Felt Arousal Scale before and after three different outdoor activities: a classroom break of 15 min of self-paced activity, a near maximal exhaustion activity (the bleep test), and a no-exercise control group where pupils sat or stood outside. Wellbeing and fitness were examined as mediators of the relationship between outdoor activity and cognition. Results Fifteen minutes of self-paced outdoor activity was beneficial for pupils’ cognition and wellbeing in comparison to both other activities (Cohen’s d effect sizes ranging from 0.04 to 0.22; small). The relationship with cognition was not mediated by participants’ fitness level and was only partially mediated by wellbeing. Change scores for alertness were higher after the bleep test compared to the control activity but similar for all other outcomes. Conclusions Taking a break from the classroom to complete 15 min of self-paced physical activity should be considered a worthwhile activity by class teachers, school management, and policymakers. Additionally, more intense physical activity should not be considered to be detrimental.

Keywords
Acute physical activity; Cognition; Children

Journal
BMC Medicine: Volume 18, Issue 1

StatusPublished
FundersUniversity of Edinburgh and Physiological Society
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online31/03/2020
Date accepted by journal19/02/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/30937
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC
eISSN1741-7015