Research informing TransformUs
Research has shown that children who sit less and are more active throughout the day have:
- By including generic active breaks into lessons, one study reported an increase in physical activity of 47 minutes a week.
- Teachers were 88% more likely to report that students’ work improved after generic active breaks.
- Active breaks that included curriculum content (curriculum active breaks) also improved students’ on-task behaviour as well as having beneficial academic outcomes (e.g., maths, reading).
The evidence shows that there are many benefits for children who participate in active class lessons compared to usual seated class lessons including:
Better concentration and time-on-task
Studies have tested the impact of active lessons on children’s on-task behaviour (a measure of concentration) in class.
These studies ran for up to 22 weeks and found a 14-20% improvement in children’s on-task behaviour during an active lesson compared to usual seated class lessons.
Behaviour management in the classroom
Some teachers worry that classroom based physical activity might result in disruptive classroom behaviour. In fact, the opposite is true with teachers finding active classroom strategies are not disruptive at all; and particularly beneficial for children with behavioural challenges.
Improved academic performance
A 3-year study that integrated movement into lessons found children had improved scores in reading, maths and spelling compared to children in schools who received usual seated lessons.
Other long term studies (>20 weeks) also found improvements in children’s maths, reading and spelling performance, and social studies.
Increased physical activity and energy expenditure
Using a height-adjustable desk can increase students’ energy expenditure by 134kj per hour. Over a typical school day this would be equivalent to walking, skateboarding or roller-skating for an hour after school. Over the length of a year, this increase in energy expenditure could result in a net reduction of 5.4kg of weight gain.
Improved health and wellbeing outcomes
Children in the original TransformUs trial had lower waist circumference, body mass index scores and systolic blood pressure, higher Vitamin D, and more favourable cardiac risk factors compared to children in schools that conducted seated lessons.
It is important to teach children about the benefits of being active and why sitting for long periods is not good for their health and wellbeing. The principles learnt in these lessons will help empower children to make healthy behaviour choices now and into the future.
Active homework can incorporate a standing or moving component within current homework you might set for your students, which:
Helps children engage in activity outside of school hours
Active homework encourages students to engage in active learning outside of school hours. Active homework provides children opportunities to move whilst completing academic activities.
Benefits children’s cognition and learning
While research has not yet fully explained why or how physical activity benefits children’s cognition, learning while moving can help children’s focus and attention and even academic outcomes. Our original trial found that children really enjoyed active homework and it helped with engagement and completion of set tasks.
Improve children’s executive function
A research study in Switzerland by Schmidt and colleagues compared children’s executive functions (e.g., inhibition) and cognitive engagement after participating in three different types of activity (high physical exertion with high cognitive engagement; high physical exertion but low cognitive engagement; and low exertion and low cognitive engagement). It was found that doing activity with high cognitive engagement was most beneficial for children’s executive functions.
Providing an active school and classroom environment is important for supporting behaviour change.
Active school policy
A study found that children’s volume of active school transportation increased in schools with more initiatives to promote active school transport.
Research shows school physical activity policies increase children’s active behaviour.
Whole school programs resulted in a 24% and 12% increase in active participation among girls and boys respectively.
Active indoor learning spaces
A study in the UK found that 90% of students thought an active indoor classroom was more engaging and the information covered was more memorable.
Active breaks can improve on-task behaviour and overall physical activity by 11% and 12% respectively.
Active outdoor learning spaces
Evidence from the UK and Australia also shows that cost effective changes to school playgrounds, such as line markings, can substantially increase children’s physical activity and play. Playground line markings and promotional signs provide children with cues and support to be active when they may have otherwise been sitting.
Line markings in schools in the UK (pictured here) resulted in children increasing their physical activity levels by 7%.
Our research has shown that recess and lunch provide an important opportunity to be active and contributes approximately 40-50% to children’s overall daily physical activity.
Recess, lunchtime and before and after school provide great opportunities for students to be active, yet children often spend less than 50% of their time in active play. Teacher encouragement to be active is also vitally important.
Research shows that providing children with access to physical activity equipment to use during recess and lunch can significantly increase their activity levels (the more accessible the better).
Providing students with equipment such as frisbees, hoola hoops, skipping ropes, beanbags and balls can increase time spent being active during recess and lunch breaks from 48% to 61%.