Research Behind Activity Breaks

According to a 2016 science paper, the average elementary school student is distracted more than a quarter of the time he or she spends in class. Does this sound familiar? What are you doing in your classroom to keep your students engaged and on task?

One way to keep students engaged and on task is to let students move while they learn. Research by Dr. Julian Reed, one of the founders of Walkabouts, concludes that an active education leads to:

  • Increased student engagement and achievement
  • Improved comportment
  • Reduced behavior referrals

In addition, a 2017 study states, “Results suggest classroom-based physical activity may have a positive impact on academic-related outcomes.”

How can you add more physical activity into the school day?


Activity breaks are physical activities that get students moving during the school day. Depending on the class, school, and teacher, activity breaks may last anywhere from three to 20 minutes. Activity breaks, however, should not be used as a substitute for PE or recess. They are a way to incorporate additional physical activity into the school day. Younger students often need to “get the wiggles out.” Activity breaks can keep students on task and help them grasp new concepts.

Incorporating activity breaks into the school day is one way to get students moving more. Activity breaks can take many forms. Teachers can get students out of their seats and dancing, doing jumping jacks, running in place — just about any physical activity will work.


Integrating movement into your traditional lessons may be another solution. A few ideas include having students act out verbs; make shapes, letters, or numbers with their bodies; and do jumping jacks as they count or spell words.


Walkabouts are an easy-to-implement solution for adding more movement to the school day without sacrificing valuable instruction time. What does the research say about Walkabouts? Independent researchers at Iowa State University and the University of California at Irvine examined the impacts of Walkabouts as a supplement to traditional lessons versus controls with traditional lessons alone. Pre-K to 2nd grade students exposed to Walkabouts’ standards-aligned, physically engaging lessons for eight weeks showed significant improvements in inattention and hyperactivity.

The research is clear: active kids achieve more, have increased focus, and are healthier. How will you get your students moving while they learn?