4 minutes of in-class high intensity interval activity improves selective attention in 9-11 year olds and may be linked to classroom behaviour


The inclusion of adequate physical activity time within schools is difficult when curriculum time is already saturated with a focus on skills that improve academic achievement.  Time efficient physical activity solutions that demonstrate their impact on academic achievement related outcomes are needed to prioritize physical activity within the school curricula.  FUNtervals are 4-minute high intensity interval activities that use whole body actions to complement a story line. The purpose of this study was two-fold. 1) To explore whether FUNtervals can improve selective attention, an executive function posited to be essential for learning and academic success. 2) To examine whether this relationship is predicted by students’ classroom behaviour, an outcome with previously demonstrated improvements following FUNtervals.  Over a 3-week period 7 grade 3-5 classes (n=88) were exposed to a single group, repeated cross-over design where each student’s selective attention on no-activity (NA) days was compared to FUNtervals (FUN).  In week 1, students were familiarized with the d2 test of attention, FUNterval activities, and baseline off-task behaviour was observed.  In both week 2 and week 3 students completed the d2 test of attention following either a FUNterval break or a no-activity break.  The order of these breaks was randomized in week 2 and then repeated in the opposite order in week 3.  Results showed students made fewer errors during the d2 test (% Error; MFUN=3.4 ±0.3% vs. MNA=4.4% ±0.5%, p= 0.001, ES= 0.26) following FUNtervals. Further, a significant relationship between baseline verbal classroom behaviour and changes in selective attention following FUNtervals was observed (EComm: R=.27, P=0.03; E%: R=.27, P=0.02; CP: R=.24, P=0.05).  In supporting the priority of physical activity inclusion within schools, FUNtervals, time efficient and easily implemented physical activity breaks, can improve selective attention through improved accuracy, quality of work and a higher degree of carefulness in elementary school children.  

Acknowledgments: Shane Sures and Dr. Lucy LeMare