Simple Fitness Ideas & Brain Breaks for the Classroom

brain breaks classroomCommon knowledge from educational materials suggest that a student’s attention span is as long as their age. As adults, we know that we should get up and move every 50 minutes. The trend today is less sitting and more moving. Standing desks and foot fidgets are just a few ways teachers are updating their classrooms. For our students, it’s also about allowing students to break at that natural point that coincides with the end of their attention span. This is generally known as a brain break. Brain breaks are a great way to help students get some movement and refresh so they can focus and learn to their full ability. Below are some brain breaks or fitness ideas that work well in short bursts.

The “No Sitting” Classroom

This idea may sound radical, but it is based on the notion that the majority of what students retain is done through kinesthetic learning. A classroom where students are in constant movement sounds out there, but it is worth considering for one subject or a portion of class and see how it goes. While students are learning, you can have them switch desks after a reading section, math problem, or other natural breaking point. For every right answer, you can have them do an exercise. Something as simple as just high fiving 20 classmates after someone gets a problem right can work. The point is to have the students move and learn at the same time. This is not ideal in all cases. But it is worth considering. And when that student wants to stand up to work, let them.

Sing A Song

This is one of my favorites. It not only gives the students a good laugh because of my lack of singing acumen, but it gets them moving and it is short. The song you will use is called “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” by the Beatles. The lyrics are below. The idea is to start by singing slow. The students stand in front of their chairs. Every time you make a B sound, the students have to sit down and stand right back up. The key to this is to sing the song several times and get faster and faster.  It is a ton of fun and gets them sweating and laughing.

My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
Well my Bonnie lies over the ocean
Yeah bring back my Bonnie to me
Yeah bring back, ah bring back
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me to me
Oh bring back, oh bring back
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me
Well my Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
Yeah my Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh I said bring back my Bonnie to me
Yeah bring back, ah bring back
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me to me
Oh bring back, ah bring back
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me

I See, I See

This is one of the first games I introduce at the start of the year.  Not only is it fun and engaging, but it uses call and response for listening skills. The activity works this way: You say, “I see, I See.” The students reply with “Mr. or Ms. X, What Do You See?” You say, I see students doing (insert an exercise) 10 jumping jacks. The students do what you say you see. Do this for 3-5 minutes, and your students will be ready to learn again.


This is another great activity. Students start in a standing position, and you will say “Airplanes, Start Your Engines.” The students are to make an airplane noise and put their arms out like wings. You then say, “Airplanes, Fly.” The students then move around in the general space without bumping into each other to the movement of your choice. You want to emphasize no bumping for safety. The movement can vary: bear walks, skipping, hopping, jumping, skipping, bunny hop, hopping on one foot, move like a dog. You can get as creative as you want. When you say, “Airplanes Refuel,” the students must freeze and do an exercise to fuel up their tanks. Again, you can choose the exercise. Repeat for up to 3-5 minutes. When you are done, the students will literally be refueled and ready to learn.

Scavenger Hunt

This is not your average scavenger hunt. In this hunt, you will have the students find common classroom items as quick as they can. In order to keep this safe, instruct students to walk, and that they need to be careful about bumping into each other. The idea is to have students in groups of 4. Each student in the group has a number. You will scatter general classroom items throughout your classroom. You call out a number, and the numbered student in each group has to find the item you say as quick as they can and return it to the group. The group that gets the object the quickest gets a point. The group with the most points at the end of the time wins. Try to have groups in the center of the room so there are no claims of cheating because one group is closer to materials than another.

Some More Ideas:

  • Thumb wars
  • Teach them a hand clap like patty cake
  • Some freeze dancing
  • In-place calisthenics (gross motor movements)
  • Rock paper scissors competitions
  • Fitness dice and cards
  • Focused Fitness brain break activities

You should be ready to do some simple fitness activities and brain breaks to keep your students focused and learning.  Mix it up and do different ones each time to keep it fresh!

About the Author:

literacy in physical educationCharles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.

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3 thoughts on “Simple Fitness Ideas & Brain Breaks for the Classroom

  1. Pingback: September Printable Fitness Challenge Calendar - S&S Blog

  2. Hi, Charles,
    Thanks for your inventive approach and creative ideas to classroom education.

    I am a volunteer English teacher at my grandson’s elementary school in Tokyo, Jp. For 3 yrs. now, I have been teaching the entire 2nd grade; an after school elective,
    requires permission slips by parents to participate.

    In my 3rd year, the school decided to divide this year’s class into 2 groups because they were
    “exceptionally active” I was told. What I wasn’t told was there was an activity challenged special
    needs student in my class.

    He would complete all the worksheets before anyone; without any instruction, and correctly.
    Then, dash around the room, crawl under/over/between anything, exit the classroom, run in the halls. Classmates were aware,ignored situations, or tried to encourage him to take part
    in activities together.

    I searched for ways to facilitate him and the others together,but before I had a chance, the student no longer came to class. No explanation was given, although I think it was because
    of the disruption.

    So, thank you so much! I think your many suggestions would be very useful to keep these special students together with the rest of the class, to everyones benefit.

  3. Pingback: May Printable Fitness Challenge Calendar - S&S Blog

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