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UBC Undergraduate Research

University Student Perspectives on Movement Breaks in the Classroom Bellis, Lydia; Garza, Andres; Min, Paul; Peterson, Elke; Shojaei, Roozbeh Charlie


Prolonged sedentary behavior is positively associated with increased risk for chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes even after adjustments are made for moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Existing research has demonstrated that engaging in small bouts of movement/physical activity during the day decreases the risk of various chronic conditions. Additionally, movement breaks have been shown to have physical and mental benefits including decreasing physical discomfort in the workplace, increasing attention, and improving performance in classroom settings. The purpose of this research paper was to explore the perspectives of students on movement breaks in university classrooms with the intention of formulating recommendations to improve the experience and format of movement breaks in the future. Specifically, this paper examines student perspectives on the value of movement breaks during class time, the types of movement breaks preferred by students, potential subjective benefits experienced from movement breaks, and the effects of online versus in-person lecture formats on the perceived importance of movement breaks during scheduled lectures. To explore these questions a survey was designed using Qualtrics software and a sample of students (N=67) was recruited from the population of current undergraduate students at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Study participants were recruited by student researchers via a post on the UBC Kinesiology website and announcements made in undergraduate classes on Canvas and Zoom. Collected data was quantitatively analyzed using Qualtrics in order to identify trends in survey responses. Results of the descriptive quantitative analysis showed that the majority of study participants felt that movement breaks should be implemented more frequently and consistently during lectures and that most participants reported feeling and performing better in class after participating in movement breaks. Students also indicated a preference for more static, slower-paced movement breaks or self-guided breaks over dynamic, faster-paced movement breaks, and emphasized the importance of movement breaks in classes 120+ minutes in length. The majority of students also indicated that movement breaks are either more important in online lecture formats than in-person classes, or that movement breaks are important regardless of whether classes are online or in person. The following four actionable recommendations were designed based on the results of data analysis: 1) movement breaks should be implemented more frequently and consistently during lectures at UBC, 2) movement breaks should be prioritized in classes that are 120+ minutes in length, 3) self-guided or slower-paced movement breaks should be prioritized over faster-paced movement breaks, and 4) ongoing initiative should be taken to ensure students participating in online courses are given the opportunity to interrupt sedentary time with movement breaks scheduled during lectures. Long-term, it is recommended that campus partners engage in ongoing collaboration with relevant stakeholders to design guidelines for the implementation of regularly scheduled movement breaks campus wide. Study limitations include a relatively small sample size, an over-representation of Kinesiology in the study sample, and a lack of data gathered from 1st year students. Further research on this topic is recommended to determine potential barriers and solutions to the implementation of regularly scheduled movement breaks in university classrooms. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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