Journal of Physical Activity Research
ISSN (Print): 2574-4437 ISSN (Online): 2574-4437 Website: Editor-in-chief: Peter Hart
Open Access
Journal Browser
Journal of Physical Activity Research. 2018, 3(1), 60-67
DOI: 10.12691/jpar-3-1-10
Open AccessArticle

The Impact of Physically Active Brain Breaks on College Students’ Activity Levels and Perceptions

Alicia C. Stapp1, and Laura F. Prior1

1Department of Teacher Education, The University of Mississippi, University, United States of America, 38677

Pub. Date: August 07, 2018

Cite this paper:
Alicia C. Stapp and Laura F. Prior. The Impact of Physically Active Brain Breaks on College Students’ Activity Levels and Perceptions. Journal of Physical Activity Research. 2018; 3(1):60-67. doi: 10.12691/jpar-3-1-10


A majority of adults in the United States do not attain the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week. This is precipitated by an increased amount of time spent in environments that inhibit movement and promote sedentary behaviors — at work, at home, and in cars. College-aged students (18-29) also engage in a greater amount of sedentary behaviors as they encounter a transitional period in life where many begin making independent lifestyle choices for the first time. Despite the trend towards physical inactivity, higher education provides the ideal platform to develop and employ methods that can impact students’ physical activity behaviors. Thus, this study compared the effect of physically active brain breaks in a college classroom on college students’ physical activity levels to students who did not participate in physically active brain breaks. An embedded sequential mixed methods design was utilized wherein quantitative data was collected via pedometers during class, while student interviews provided qualitative data to assist the researchers in understanding participants perceptions within the experimental intervention. Results indicated that participants (n = 65) who participated in physically active brain breaks acquired a higher daily step count average, compared to participants (n = 52) who did not participate in physically active brain breaks. Three themes emerged from the interviews that suggest students’ experiences with physically active brain breaks were compellingly positive and their perceptions revealed that (1) experience is essential; (2) variety is key; and physically active brain breaks are (3) engaging for all.

physical activity physically active brain breaks pedometer college students pre-service teachers

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  American College Health Association. “National college health assessment spring 2008 reference group data report (abridged): The american college health association,” Journal of American College Health, 57 (5), 477-488.
[2]  Pope, L., Hansen, D., and Harvey, J. “Examining the weight trajectory of college students,” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 49 (2), 137-141, 2017.
[3]  Hintermeiyer, L. “Sedentary behavior in honors college freshman,” (Senior honors theses). Retrieved from Brockport Digital Commons (Accession No. 40), 2016.
[4]  Wengreen, H.J. and Moncur, C. “Change in diet, physical activity, and body weight among young-adults during the transition from high school to college,” Nutrition Journal, 8, 32, 2009.
[5]  Ickes, M.J., McMullen, J., Pflug, C. and Westgate, P.M. “Impact of a university-based program on obese college students’ physical activity behaviors, attitudes, and self-efficacy,” American Journal of Health Education, 47 (1), 47-55, 2016.
[6]  Lepp, A., Barkley, J.E., Sanders, G.J., Rebold, M. and Gates, P. “The relationship between cell phone use, physical and sedentary activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness in a sample of U.S. college students”, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10 (79), 2013.
[7]  Calestine, J., Bopp, M., Bopp, C.M. and Papalia, Z. “College student work habits are related to physical activity and fitness,” International Journal of Exercise Science, 10 (7), 1009-1017, 2017.
[8]  Lynch, B.M. and Owen, N. “Too much sitting and chronic disease risk: Steps to move the science forward,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 162 (2), 146–147, 2015.
[9]  Vadenboncoeur, C., Townsend, N. and Foster, C. “A meta-analysis of weight gain in first year university students: Is freshman 15 a myth?,” BMC Obesity, 28 (2), 22, 2015.
[10]  Laly, P. and Gardner, B. “Promoting habit formation,” Health Psychology Review, 7 (1), 137-158, 2013.
[11]  World Health Organization. “The Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030.” (2018). Retrieved from
[12]  Taliaferro, L.A., Rienzo, B.A., Pigg, M.R., Miller, D. and Dodd, V.J. “Associations between physical activity and reduced rates of hopelessness, depression, and suicidal behavior among college students,” Journal of American College Health, 57 (4), 427-436, 2009.
[13]  Bray, S.R. and Born, H.A. “Transition to university and vigorous physical activity: Implications for health and psychological well-being,” Journal of American College Health, 52 (4), 181-188, 2004.
[14]  Clemente, F.M., Nikolaidis, P.T., Martins, F.M.L. and Mendes, R.S. “Physical activity patterns in university students: Do they follow the public health guidelines?” PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0152516, 2016.
[15]  Doyle, N.A., Lim, B.W., Miller, M.S., McMullin, S.N., Myers, B.L., Olson, J.A. and Power, M.D. “Physical activity and weight status of college students,” International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings, 11 (1), 27, 2013.
[16]  Fuller, J., Gonzales M., and Rice, K. “Physical Activity levels among on campus and online college students,” International Journal of Exercise Science, Conference Proceedings, 8 (3), 21, 2015.
[17]  Mahar, M. “Impact of short bouts of physical activity on attention-to-task in elementary school children,” Preventative Medicine, 52 (1), 60-64, 2011.
[18]  Nader, P.R., Stone, E.J., Lytle, L.A., Perry, C.L., Osganian, S.K., Kelder, S., Webber, L.S., Elder, J.P., Montgomery, D., Feldman, H.A., Wu, M., Johnson, C., Parcel, G.S., and Luepker, R.V. “Three year maintenance of improved diet and physical activity: The CATCH cohort,” Archives of Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine, 153 (7), 695-704, 1999.
[19]  Raney, M., Henriksen, A. and Minton, J. “Impact of short duration health & science energizers in the elementary school classroom,” Cogent Education, 4 (1), 1399969, 2017.
[20]  Plotnikoff, R.C., Costigan, S.A., Williams, R.L., Hutchesson, M.J., Kennedy, S.G., Robards, S.L., Allen, J., Collings, C.E., Callister, R. and Germov, J. “Effectiveness of interventions targeting physical activity, nutrition and healthy weight for university and college students: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” International Journal for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12 (45), 45, 2015.
[21]  Pilcher, J.J. and Baker, V.C. “Task performance and meta-cognitive outcomes when using activity workstations and traditional desks,” Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 957, 2016.
[22]  Donnelly, J.E. and Lambourne, K. “Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement,” Preventative Medicine, 52 (1), 36-42, 2011.
[23]  Rasberry C.N., Lee S.M., Robin L., Laris B.A., Russell L.A., Coyle K.K. and Nihiser A.J. “The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature,” Preventative Medicine, 52 (1), 10-20, 2011.
[24]  Watson, A., Timperio, A., Brown, H., Best, K. and Hesketh, K.D. “Effect of classroom-based physical activity interventions on academic and physical activity outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14 (1), 114, 2017.
[25]  Levine, J.A. “Sick of sitting,” Diabetologia, 58 (8), 1751-1758. 2015.
[26]  Creswell, J.W. Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. (Fourth.), Boston, Pearson, 2011.
[27]  Elies, S. “Performance analysis of commercial accelerometers: A parameter review,” Sensors & Transducers, 193 (10), 179-190, 2015.
[28]  Lee, J.A., Williams, S.M., Brown, D.D. and Laurson, K.R. “Concurrent validation of the actigraph gt3x+, polar active accelerometer, omron HJ-720 and yamax digiwalker SW-701 pedometer step counts in lab-based free living settings,” Journal of Sports Sciences, 33 (10), 991-1000, 2015.
[29]  Gopher, (2015). FITStep Pro uploadable pedometers. Retrieved from
[30]  Galetta, A. Mastering the semi-structured interview and beyond: From research design to analysis and publication. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2013.
[31]  Corbin, J. and Strauss, A. “Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria,” Qualitative Sociology, 13 (1), 3-19, 1990.
[32]  Tudor-Locke, C., Johnson W.D. and Katzmarzyk, P.T. “Accelerometer-determined steps per day in US adults,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41 (7), 1384-1391, 2009.
[33]  Galvin, R. “How many interviews are enough? Do qualitative interviews in building energy consumption research produce reliable knowledge?,” The Journal of Building Engineering, 1, 2-12, 2015.
[34]  Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1967.
[35]  Benes, S., Finn, K.E., Sullivan, E.C. and Yan, Z. “Teachers’ perceptions of using movement in the classroom,” The Physical Educator, 73 (1), 110-135, 2016.
[36]  Hall, T.J., Little, S. and Heidorn, B.D. “Preparing classroom teachers to meet students’ physical activity needs,” Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 82 (3), 40-52, 2011.
[37]  Glapa, A., Grzesiak, J., Laudanska-Krzeminska, I., Chin, M., Edginton, C.R., Mok, M. and Bronikowski, M. “The impact of brain breaks classroom-based physical activities on attitudes towards physical activity in Polish school children in third to fifth grade,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 (2), 368-379, 2018.
[38]  Bailey, R., Hillman, C., Arent, S. and Petitpas, A. “Physical activity: An underestimated investment in human capital?,” Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10 (3), 289-308, 2013.
[39]  Parks, M., Solmon, M. and Lee, A. “Understanding classroom teachers’ perceptions of integrating physical activity: A collective efficacy perspective,” Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 21(3), 316-328, 2007.
[40]  McMullen, J.M., Martin, R., Jones, J. and Murtagh, E.M. “Moving to learn Ireland- Classroom teachers’ experiences of movement integration,” Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 321-330, 2016.
[41]  Morgan, P.J. and Hansen, V. “Classroom teachers’ perceptions of the impact of barriers to teaching physical education on the quality of physical education programs,” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79 (4), 506-516, 2008.
[42]  Goh, T.L., Hannon, J. C., Newton, M., Webster, C., Podlog, L. and Pillow, W. “I’ll squeeze it in: Transforming preservice teachers’ perceptions toward movement integration in schools,” Action in Teacher Education, 35 (4), 286-300, 2013.
[43]  Wadsworth, D. D., Robinson, L.E., Beckham, K. and Webster, K. “Break for physical activity: Incorporating classroom-based physical activity breaks into preschools,” Early Childhood Education Journal, 39 (6), 391-395, 2012.