Classroom Movement Breaks Reduce Sedentary Behavior and Increase Concentration, Alertness and Enjoyment during University Classes: A Mixed-Methods Feasibility Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 24;18(11):5589. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115589.


This mixed-methods study aimed to determine the feasibility of incorporating movement breaks into university classes in terms of acceptability (disruption, engagement, satisfaction), practicality (ease of scheduling and conducting breaks) and efficacy (sedentary time, concentration, alertness, enjoyment). Movement breaks of five to 10 min duration were scheduled after 20 min of sedentary time during 2-h classes. Classes without movement breaks were used as a comparison. Data were collected using surveys, objective physical activity monitoring and focus group interviews of students (n = 85) and tutors (n = 6). Descriptive statistics (quantitative data) and independent coding and thematic analysis (qualitative data) were completed. Students (mean age 23 ± 2 years, 69% female) actively engaged in movement breaks with no adverse events. Movement breaks were perceived to be beneficial for concentration, engagement and productivity. Timing of the break was perceived to be important to enhance the benefit and reduce disruption. Students preferred outdoor or competitive movement breaks. Students spent 13 min less time sitting (95%CI 10 to 17), took 834 more steps (95%CI 675 to 994) and had higher levels of concentration, alertness and enjoyment (p < 0.001) in classes with movement breaks compared to classes without. Classroom movement breaks are feasible and may be considered for incorporation into university classes to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity, alertness, concentration and enjoyment.

Keywords: exercise; mental fatigue; sedentary behaviour; students; universities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pleasure
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult