UBC Undergraduate Research

UBC Undergraduate Student’s Perspectives of Movement Breaks in the Classroom Chopra, Anisha; Ebel, Lainey; Geyer, Kirsten; Nagra, Prabhleen; Ritchie, Heather


Long periods of sitting due to lectures and studying are perceived as the largest contributors to sedentary behaviours (Moulin & Irwin, 2017). On average, undergraduate students spend 8.23 to 13.03 hours per day being sedentary (Moulin et al., 2019). Sedentary behaviours can contribute to elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression (Katzmarzyk et al., 2009; Lee & Kim, 2018). Additionally, when students are inactive for more than 20 minutes, their ability to focus, comprehend and retain information decreases (Reilly et al., 2012). Movement breaks are effective physical activity interventions to combat sedentary behaviours, decrease stress, and improve attention and memory (Fenesi et al., 2018; Olmsted, 1999). The purpose of this study was to understand UBC undergraduate student’s perspectives on having movement breaks in the classroom and provide ways we can improve them. Furthermore, we wanted to find out whether UBC undergraduate students enjoy movement breaks, whether they feel mentally better and more engaged in lecture material after participating in a movement break, what type of movement breaks they are more likely to participate in, and lastly, what recommendations they have to improve movement breaks in the classroom at UBC. A survey was conducted through Qualtrics to collect qualitative and quantitative data over a five-day period ranging from March 20 to March 25, 2021. The survey was distributed through the social media platform Instagram and was also posted on the Kinesiology 464 course announcements section on Canvas by Dr. Bundon. From the survey, we gathered 40 responses from UBC undergraduate students. Amongst the participants that completed the survey, the majority of the perceptions of movement breaks or experience with movement breaks were very positive. Participants who hadn’t partaken in movement breaks were very likely to participate and anticipate benefits in their learning, mood, and focus. While those who had participated in movement breaks largely did experience these benefits and enjoyed the movement breaks. Participants felt that their participation in movement breaks could be increased through incentives, such as bonus marks, and if the breaks were self-guided within a set time scheduled for the middle of the lecture. Based on our findings, we have developed 4 recommendations for UBC Sports and Recreation (specifically Move UBC) to implement and to improve UBC undergraduate student’s experiences with movement breaks and increase physical activity in the classroom. Firstly, our project partner should consider working with UBC faculty and staff to incorporate more self-guiding and stretching movement breaks rather than active movement breaks. Secondly, Move UBC should work with UBC faculty and staff to schedule and plan movement breaks ahead of time. Further, Move UBC should collaborate with UBC faculty and staff to implement creative ways to integrate physical activity into learning material. Finally, UBC faculty, staff and students should be educated on the benefits of movement breaks. 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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