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Busy Brain Breaks

A series of exercise videos for children produced by Hartpury University PhD student Alice Cline is helping to support teachers and parents while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alice devised the Busy Brain Breaks videos – now available free on YouTube – as part of her PhD research project looking at understanding, evaluating and improving fitness and activity levels of primary school children in Gloucestershire.

The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that children do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, yet only one in five are meeting this target.

For her PhD project, Alice worked with 10 schools and 1,000 children across Gloucestershire to help design an intervention method that would encourage children to do more exercise in line with these recommendations.

The exercises featured on the Busy Brain Breaks videos were designed to be conducted in the classroom to give a short break from lessons and improve movement and physical activity.

Alice hopes the exercise videos will now prove useful while children are being home-schooled during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Designing an intervention to be implemented inside the classroom is no easy task, as teachers are already faced with a heavy workload and busy schedule,” said Alice.

“Therefore, I worked in collaboration with 15 different teachers to help design a movement-based intervention that was suitable for key stage 2 classrooms – Busy Brain Breaks was the result.

“Based on a scientific model of behaviour change, Busy Brain Breaks involves children completing five minutes of exercise that aims to develop fundamental movement skills as well as increase physical activity levels.  

“The intervention was implemented across 28 Gloucestershire classrooms in January and has been more successful than I could have ever imagined.

“On average, classes completed nine Busy Brain Breaks videos a week, which means an extra 45 minutes of physical activity.

“In light of school closures, both children and teachers have been asking how they can use Busy Brain Breaks at home, so it is now free to access on YouTube.”

Before producing the videos, Alice carried out a cross-sectional piece of research that identified that children who did the most physical activity also displayed the best movement patterns, such as lateral motion, forward motion, up and down motion, and coordinating upper and lower body movements.

As the children’s physical activity increased, so did movement patterns, physical activity enjoyment and total amount of sports played.

Alice said: “My aim was to get children more active throughout the school day in order to help improve their movement patterns, but to also encourage enjoyment and engagement of physical activity outside the classroom too.  

“Unfortunately, given the current situation, we won’t get to test the children to see if their movement has improved as a result of the videos, but I’ll be collecting observational data from the teachers that will help to shape future primary school interventions.”

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