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Table 2 Studies investigating the effect of active breaks on physical activity and academic-related outcomes

From: Effect of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic and physical activity outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Paper/ country Study design Sample size Age Intervention Duration Delivery Physical activity measure Academic outcome measure Study quality Results
Ma et al., 2014 [34]
Canada
Within subject Students:
n = 44
Schools:
n = 2
Classes: n = 2
Years 2 & 4 FUNtervals = 20s VPA separated by 10s rest repeated 8 times
Dose: alternating days
3 weeks Research staff None Off-task behaviour: direct observation Strong Off-task behaviour Significantly less following FUNtervals, compared with no activity condition
- Year 4 children: off-task passive (ES = 0.31); off-task motor (ES = 0.48)
- Year 2 children: off-task passive (ES = 0.74); off-task verbal (ES = 0.45) off-task motor (ES = 1.076)
Howie et al., 2015 [31] USA Within subject n = 96 Age 9 to 12 years
Years 4 & 5
Brain BITES (Better Ideas Through Exercise) = 5, 10 and 20 min MVPA active breaks
Dose: 1 condition delivered twice per week
4 weeks Research staff Intervention fidelity: direct observation Executive function: trail making test & digit recall tests
Mathematics: 1-min math fluency test
Moderate Executive function: no difference between groups
Mathematics: significant improvement after 10-min (ES = 0.24) and 20-min (ES = 0.27) active break, compared with sedentary condition
Howie et al., 2014 [30] USA On-task behaviour: direct observation Moderate On-task behaviour: largest improvement after 10 min active break (d = 0.50)
Janssen et al., 2014 [32] Netherlands Within subject n = 123 Age 10 to 11 years
Year 5
15 min active breaks of varying PA intensities (MPA, VPA, passive break, no break)
Dose: unclear
4 weeks Research staff PA intensity during active breaks: Accelerometer Selective attention: Test of Everyday Attention for children (TEA-ch test) Moderate Selective attention: improved most after MPA condition (B = −0.59, 95% CI: −0.70,-0.49), compared with VPA (B = −0.29, 95% CI: −0.39,-0.19), passive break (B = 0.27, 95% CI: −0.35,-0.18) and no break conditions
Ma et al., 2015 [21] Canada Within subject n = 88 Age 9 to 11 years
Years 3 to 5
FUNtervals = 20s VPA separated by 10s rest, repeated 8 times
Dose: once/week
3 weeks Research staff None Selective attention: d2 Test of Attention Moderate Selective attention: significant improvement following FUNtervals, compared with no activity condition
Barnard et al., 2014 [39]
South Africa
Quasi-experimental with pre and post testing Students:
n = 149
Schools:
n = 2
Classes:
n = 6
School A mean age: 7.33 years
School B mean age: 7.47 years
2 intervention programs:
*integrated - 30 min integrated academic skills and motor skill program
*intensive program - 30 min physical activity program
Dose: 3 times/week
8 weeks Unclear None Literacy: ESSI Reading and Spelling tests
Numeracy: VASSI Math Skills Test
Moderate Reading: for the integrated (26%) and intensive (30%) programs test scores improved but not significant.
Spelling: for the integrated (32%) and intensive (47%) programs test scores improved but not significant.
Numeracy: for the integrated (30%) and intensive (21%) programs test scores improved but not significant.
Hill et al., 2011 [29]
Scotland
Cross over n = 552 Age 8 to 12 years
Years 4 to 7
10 to 15 min MPA active break.
Dose: once/day for one week, no intervention in the second week
2 weeks Not reported None Attention and executive function: paced serial addition, size ordering, listening \span, digit span backwards & visual coding Moderate Attention and executive function: improved only for those receiving the intervention in week 2 (mean difference = 3.85, 95% CI = 0.26,7.44)
Schmidt et al., 2016 [26] Within subject n = 98 Year 5 10 min active break involving running at different speeds
Dose: 5 different days over 3 weeks
3 weeks Not reported None Attention: d2 Test of Attention Moderate Attention: no significant improvement
Ahamed et al., 2007 [35]
Canada
Cluster RCT Students:
n = 288
Schools:
n = 10
Age 9 to 11 years
Years 4 and 5
Action Schools! BC = 15 min MVPA active break.
Dose: once/day
16 months Teacher Habitual PA:
Modified Physical Activity Questionnaire for Children (PAQ-C)
Mathematics, Reading and Language: Canadian Achievement Test Weak Mathematics, Reading and Language (total score) Although control school had significantly higher scores at baseline, no significant difference between intervention (mean = 1672 (9.6) and control groups (mean = 1688.6 (16.6) at follow up
Physical activity: increase by 47 min/week in intervention schools (139 ± 62 vs 92 ± 45, p < 0.001)
Carlson et al., 2015 [27]
USA
Quasi-experimental (no pre-testing) Students: n = 1322
Teachers>: n = 397
Schools: n = 24
Mean age: 8.8 years
Years 1 to 6
10 min MVPA active break
Dose: At least once/day
8 months Teacher School day PA: Accelerometer Classroom behaviour: Teacher report Weak Classroom behaviour: Teachers who reported implementing active breaks reported fewer students who lacked effort or gave up easily (β = −0.17, 95% CI: −.033, −0.01), were more likely to agree that students work improves following participation in active breaks (OR = 1.88; 95% CI:1.04,3.37), and showed a trend towards agreement that students stay on task more after active breaks (OR = 1.88; 95% CI: 0.98,3.61; p = 0.056), compared with non-implementers
Physical activity: students of teachers who reported ever holding active break had 3.14 more minutes per day of MVPA and were 75% more likely to have met the 30 min per day guideline for MVPA during school (OR: 1.75; 95% CI: 1.22, 2.51)
Hill et al., 2010 [28]
Scotland
Cross over n = 1224 Age 8 to 12 years
Years 4 to 7
10 to 15 min MPA active break.
Dose: once/day for one week, no intervention in the second week
2 weeks Not reported None Attention and executive function: paced serial addition, size ordering, listening span, digit span backwards & visual coding Weak Attention and executive function: improved only for those receiving the intervention on week 2 of the intervention (control group mean = 58.20 (18.03) vs. intervention group mean = 60.19 (19.38)
Katz et al., 2010 [33]
USA
RCT n = 1214 Years 2 to 4 Activity Bursts in the Classroom = MVPA active breaks totaling 30 mins per day.
Dose: Length and number of sessions/day could vary
8 months Teacher None Classroom behaviour:
Work and social skills component of Independence School District (ISD) progress report card
Mathematics and English:
Year 4: Missouri Academic Performance Test (MAP)
Years 2–4: ISD progress report
Weak Classroom behaviour: no difference between groups
Academic achievement: no difference between groups for MAP test results (Year 4 only), but a greater proportion of control group students (Years 2 to 4) showed improvement in math (28.6% vs. 20.8%) and reading (21.1% vs. 16.1%) as measured via ISD report, compared with intervention group
Lisahunter et al., 2014 [38]
Australia
Quasi-experimental with control group Students:
n = 107
Teachers: n = 6
Schools:
n = 1
Classes:
n = 4
Age approx. 10 years
Year 5
Active Kids, Active Minds (AKAM) = additional 30 mins of MPA active break.
Dose: once/day
2 terms/approx. 20 weeks Specially employed PE teacher Habitual and school day PA: Pedometer (Yamax CW700)
School day PA of at least MPA:
Accelerometer (ActiGraph)
Cognitive function: Cognitive Assessment System
Academic achievement: total score for 8 classroom subjects
Classroom behaviour: school behaviour records
Weak No difference between groups for any of the academic outcomes assessed
Physical activity: daily steps declined from pre- (control = 13,772; intervention = 12,447) to post- (control = 12,046; intervention = 9702) for both intervention and control groups
Whit-Glover et al., 2011 [36]
USA
RCT Students
n = 4599
Schools: n = 8
Years 3 to 5 Instant Recess = 10 min MPA active break.
Dose: once/day
8 weeks Teacher PA during Instant Recess lesson: Direct observation Classroom behaviour: direct observation Weak Classroom behaviour: 11% increase in time spent on-task in intervention, compared with control group
Physical activity: MPA increased by 16% and LPA increased by 51%
Wilson et al., 2015 [37]
Australia
Within subject Students:
n = 58 boys
Schools:
n = 1
Classes:
n = 4
Mean age: 11.2 years
Years 5 & 6
10 min MVPA active break outside the classroom
Dose: once/day, 3 times/week
4 weeks Teacher PA intensity during active breaks: accelerometer Sustained attention: 5-min Psychomotor Vigilance Task
On-task behaviour: direct observation
Weak Sustained attention: no difference intervention group pre active break: mean = 477 (285) vs. post active break: mean = 479 (200)
Off-task behaviour: no difference: intervention group pre active break: mean = 13.6 (10.0) vs. post active break: mean = 14.8% (11.6)
Uhrich & Swarm., 2007 [35]
USA
Quasi-experimental with control group Students:
n = 41
Schools
n = 1
Classes
n = 2
Age 10 to 11 years
Year 5
20 min of sport stacking: using both hands to stack a group of 12 specialized cups in predetermined combinations
Dose: 3 times/week
6 weeks Research staff None Decoding and comprehension skills: Gates MacGinitie Reading Test Fourth Edition (GMRT-4) Decoding and Comprehension skill subtests Weak Decoding skills: no difference between groups (F 1,41 = 0.03, p > 0.05)
Comprehension skills: Improvement in intervention group, compared with control (F 1,41 = 4.54, p < 0.05)
Altenburg et al., 2016 [49]
Netherlands
RCT Students
n = 62
Schools
n = 5
*convenience sample
Aged 10 to 13 years 20 min MPA active breaks comprising video-based dance activities
Dose: once per day & twice per day
1 day Supervised by research staff PA intensity during active breaks: heart rate monitor Selective attention: Sky Search sub test of the Test of Everyday Attention for children (TEA-ch test) Weak Selective attention: test scores better after 2 bouts (β = −0.26 (95% CI:-0.52,-0.004), compared with one bout (β = 0.06 (95% CI: −0.23,0.36) and control condition.
Note: a negative beta indicated a better attention score
Van den Berg et al., 2016 [50]
Netherlands
Within subject Students:
n = 195
Schools:
n = 3
Classes: n = 8
Age 10 to 13 years
Year 5 & 6
12 min MPA active breaks = 3 conditions (aerobic, coordinative & strength-based PA)
Dose: once off
3 days Children followed pre-recorded video of active break sessions, supervised by research staff PA intensity during active breaks: heart rate monitor Information processing speed: Letter Digit Substitution Test
Selective attention: d2 Test of Attention
Weak Information processing speed: no change [F(1174) = 0.71, p = 0.040
Selective attention: no change [F(1172) = 0.91, p = 0.34
Mead et al., 2016 [51]
USA
Quasi-experimental with pre and post testing Students:
n = 81
Schools:
n = 1
Classes: n = 3
Year 6
Age 11 to 12 years
3 conditions - implemented during 80 min math class (2 × 5-min active breaks, sitting on stability balls & traditional seated lesson)
Dose: every day
Unclear Teacher None Reading, Mathematics and Science: Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments
Reading, Mathematics and Language: Measures of Academic Progress
Weak Reading, Mathematics and Science: no difference between active break (pretest: 527.3 (29.8) vs. posttest (620.9 (34.2) and seated lesson conditions (pretest: 543.9 (13.1) vs. posttest 643.1 (12.4)
Reading, Mathematics and Language: no difference between active break (pretest: 219.7 (14.0) vs. posttest (226.8 (15.1) and seated lesson conditions (pretest: 221.2 (16.0) vs. posttest 226.0 (15.1)
  1. Abbreviations
  2. PA: physical activity
  3. LPA: light intensity physical activity
  4. MPA: moderate physical activity intensity
  5. MVPA: moderate to vigorous physical activity intensity
  6. VPA: vigorous intensity physical activity
  7. RCT: randomised controlled trial