Move and Be Active

Roll Some Brain Breaks

Look for opportunities to help students move throughout the school day.

There is a lot of strong evidence to support the brain–body connection when it comes to movement. In addition to promoting physical health, getting children and youth to move and be active throughout the day – even in short doses – promotes learning and mental health! In order to help children want to be physically active, it's important to make the activities FUN!

Physical activity and learning: Short, classroom-based physical activity breaks have been shown to increase attention and on-task behavior.1,2 A majority of studies have found a positive association between physical activity breaks and cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior.3,4 In addition to embedding movement in the classroom, make sure that students have opportunities to participate in physical education and engage in enjoyable active play during recess and after-school.

Physical activity and mental health: Physical activity and exercise have both short-term and long-term effects on mental health.5,6 Usually within five minute s of moderate exercise such as walking, there is positive effect on mood. In addition to helping people feel good emotionally, moderate-intensity exercise on a regular basis can help to reduce and prevent anxiety and depression.7

Simple suggestions:

  • Be creative in thinking of and implementing short (2-5 minute) activity breaks during classroom learning – especially when students seem to have low energy/attention or, when they seem to be fidgety and needing movement. Example: For elementary students, pair students and have them 'arm wrestle' or 'thumb wrestle' for 3 minutes; have students perform one yoga pose; etc.
  • Visit educator Bevin Reinen's website, 'Teach, Train, Love' for 'Brain Break' music for dance clips. Use a Smart board or computer & projector to play one of the 2-3 minute dancing to music breaks. Have students get up, dance and have fun. These are appropriate for younger grades.
  • Download the free poster, Roll Some Brain Breaks, from Your Therapy Source website. Use this poster and some dice to have children engage in upper and lower body movement.
  • Make a "PICK A STICK Brain Break Cup" (idea from Pinterest Grab some wooden craft sticks and write a different idea for movement on each one [e.g. slow motion walk, hop in place, stretch arms up to the sky, chair push-ups, touch your toes, etc.] . At each transition time, or when students need a break - pull one and have all the students complete the movement one or more times.
  • Consider using The Drive Thru Menus for Attention and Strength Posters (Teri Bowen-Irish, OTR/L) in your classroom with elementary school students. Each poster consists of a menu of 10 short exercises that can be embedded throughout the day. A Leader’s Manual provides complete instructions for implementing each activity. Available for purchase from Therapro (

1 Janssen, M., Chinapaw, M. J. M., Rouh, S. P., Toussaint, H. M., van Mechelen, W., & Verhagen, E. A. L. M. (2014). A short physical activity break from cognitive tasks increases selective attention in primary school children aged 10-11. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 7, 129-134.
2 Kibbe, D. L., et al. (2011). Ten years of TAKE 10®: Integrating physical activity with academic concepts in elementary school classrooms. Preventive Medicine, 52, 543-550. See
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). The Association Between School Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from
4 Howie, E. K., Beets, M. W., & Pate, R. R. (2014). Acute classroom exercise breaks improve on-task behavior in 4th and 5th grade students: A dose – response. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 7, 65-71.
5 Weir, K. (2011). The exercise effect. Monitor on Psychology, 42(11), p. 48. Retrieved from
6 Peluso, M. A., & Andrade, L. H. (2005). Physical activity and mental health: The association between exercise and mood. Clinics, 60, 61-70.
7 Otto, M. W., & Smits, J. A. (2011). Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-being. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-979100-2.

Website: Actions for Happiness - 'Take care of your body' at