A pilot project evaluating the integration of in-class fitness breaks into the graduate academic setting


Research has identified the negative health implications accompanying prolonged sedentary behavior, specifically its association with the incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer in adults. This raises public health concerns, as adults are known to remain sedentary for more than half of their daily waking hours1. University students are especially prone to prolonged inactivity, as they spend significant amounts of time both in class and studying, and engage in excessive screen time, which limits their participation in physical activity and structured exercise. A pilot study was conducted to explore the perceived acceptability and impact of integrating structured in-class fitness breaks into a single graduate course (CHL5308H) at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. A survey was distributed during the final class to all students in the course (n=23) as an evaluation measure. The survey had a 91% response rate. The results demonstrated high rates of acceptability, with 86% of students reporting they enjoyed the fitness breaks. Importantly, the majority of students (67%) reported this initiative motivated a reduction in their own sedentary behaviors, and increased their physical and social well-being (71%) during the academic term. This preliminary data suggests that the integration of in-class fitness breaks positively influences the sedentary behavior and well-being of graduate students. Future research will focus on extending this fitness initiative into the broader graduate student community, as well as focus on examining the facilitators and barriers to uptake.