UBC Graduate Research

Fresh Air : Exploring Perceptions of High School Student and Teacher Participation in Daily Outdoor Walking Breaks for Health and Wellbeing Robillard, Anne Elizabeth


Introduction: The health and wellbeing of high school students in Alberta (AB) and British Columbia (BC) are at risk for concerns as their school day: 1) limits opportunities for physical activity (PA); 2) promotes sedentary behaviour with prolonged, indoor sitting; and, 3) may foster obesity, depression, and anxiety. In general, unlike elementary and junior high schools, high schools have limited opportunities for students to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Youth (12-17 years old) in conjunction with the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Research confirms the benefits of physical activity (PA) on physical health, brain function, learning, and emotional, social, and mental wellbeing. Research also indicates that being outside in nature has positive effects on physical and mental health, social relationships, stress management, and wellbeing. The purpose of this study was to explore how participation in a daily 15-minute outdoor walking break, during subject discipline learning, shapes high school student and teacher perceptions of their health and wellbeing. Methods: A qualitative approach using Participatory Action Research (PAR) and thematic analysis were utilized. Data was collected from two teacher pre- and post-walking break online interviews, thirty-eight student post-walking break online questionnaires, and researcher field notes. Discoveries: 97% of students and 100% of teachers reported enjoying these daily outdoor walking breaks and 92% of students and 100% of teachers wanted to continue them. The overarching theme from the data was student and teacher perceptions of their health and wellbeing, discussed through the five sub-themes: outdoors, minds, bodies, relationships, and feelings. Both students and teachers testified that outdoor physical activity (OPA) had a positive impact on their mental, physical, social, and emotional health and wellbeing. Students’ top perception (51%) of their enjoyment of the daily outdoor walking breaks was related to the outdoors and specifically linked to the enjoyment of fresh air. Conclusions: Embedding a 15-minute refreshment time of daily outdoor walks within the high school curriculum should be considered by students, teachers, school administrators, and policymakers.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International