The effect of active brain-breaks on in-school physical activity, fundamental movement skills and executive functioning in Grade One children

  • Odelia Van Stryp

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children should take part in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day. Worldwide, children are becoming more sedentary, and therefore more attention should be given to children’s in-school physical activity (PA) patterns, physical fitness and fundamental movement skills (FMS). Children between four to seven years of age go through rapid growth in their motor and cognitive development, and it is therefore vital to establish healthy PA patterns, physical fitness levels and proficiency in their FMS. Getting children more active in the school environment, where they spend majority of their time during the day, and implementing active brain-breaks, which consist of short bouts of PA, can potentially enhance their in-school PA patterns, contribute to the daily recommended MVPA and also improve cognitive function.
    The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effect of a10-minute intervention in the form of active brain-breaks during a school day on Grade One children’s (mean age of 6.1 ± 0.36; mean BMI of 15.7) in-school PA patterns, as well as FMS and executive functioning (EF). The study consisted of four articles. Article one and two was based on a descriptive study design, included multiple assessments in order to gain a better understanding of the children’s FMS, physical fitness and EF. The children were assessed using The Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-2), the Head Toes Knees and Shoulder (HTKS) task, a modified EUROFIT version, and anthropometrical measurements were obtained. Article three was based on a quasi-experimental study design, and article four was based on a Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) as well as a descriptive study design. The children’s PA patterns were monitored with Actigraphs and they participated in a 6-week active brain-breaks intervention.
    Two schools participated in the study. All the children participated in the assessments during phase one. Each school had three Grade one classes. During the intervention (phase two), two classes from each school made up the experimental group and one class was the control group. The initial sample size recruited was N=191, however, incomplete data due to absenteeism were excluded, and thus the total sample size in each article differed. The children were assessed before and after the intervention, using theTGMD-2 and the HTKS task. The activebrain-breaks were self-designed by the researcher and based on integrated neuromusculartraining (INT)programmes. The intervention focused on a variety of FMS. All summary statistics were expressed as means, standard deviations, frequency counts and percentages. Comparisons between variables were done by using cross tabulations, Chi-square tests and ANOVA’s.
    The results of this study indicated that over a third of the participants mastered their FMS and almost a third remained in the ‘poor’ category. The physical fitness results indicated that the participants demonstrated high fitness levels and that boys performed overall better than girls, and the participants had a normal weight status. The active brain-breaks intervention had no statistically significant improvement on the overall FMS, however a significant positive effect was shown in object control skills subtests (p<0.05). During the intervention, the children spent less time being sedentary and more time in vigorous PA. There was also an improvement in their EF. This study contributes to the South African literature base, as to the researcher’s knowledge no other study has implemented an active brain-breaks intervention focusing on FMS. This intervention has demonstrated that activebrain-breaks can be executed in a school environment and that these contribute to children’s in-school PA patterns. It also provides an opportunity to practice FMS during schooldays.
    Date of AwardApr 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    • Stellenbosch University
    SupervisorEileen Africa (Supervisor), Michael Duncan (Supervisor) & Emma Eyre (Supervisor)


    • Grade One
    • Physical activity patterns
    • Fundamental movement skills
    • Fitness
    • Active brain-breaks
    • School

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