Benefits of a Brain Break?

  • Article
  • July 22, 2015

It’s rough to be a learner today. With so much information available constantly, people overtax their ability to understand, retain and apply new topics by trying to take it all in as quickly as possible. School teachers have successfully used brain breaks to help improve learning, concentration, improve stress and increase test scores, and so can your clients and even you.

What is a Brain Break?

A brain break is an activity or discussion used to reenergize the learner or group in the midst of a learning activity. The activity could be a verbal task, discussion, meditation exercise or kinesthetic activity. Lasting one to 10 minutes, everyone is encouraged to participate in the activity before settling down to continue the task.

Popular brain break activities can be as simple as doing aerobic activities like toe touches or patting your head while rubbing your belly. Others are more complex games like “Would You Rather” which involves asking a series of questions while students move to one side of the room depending on their answer. For example, would you rather take only cold showers every day or only eat cold foods every day? Students picking cold showers gather the right side of the room while those picking cold foods gather on left side.

Do Brain Breaks Really Work?

Yes, in elementary school kids. Research indicates that cognition may be impacted by physical activity and school meals. A healthy breakfast can include low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt. Even single bouts of aerobic exercise have been shown to benefit cognitive performance.

  • Maeda and Randall showed that five minutes of moderate to vigorous activity significantly improved math fluency and classroom concentration.
  • Norlander et al. demonstrated significant gains in concentration when five to 10 minute exercise and relaxation breaks were used.
  • Hollar et al. studied about 4588 low income elementary school students in Florida who, after participating in an intervention including nutritious food, 10 to 15 minute exercise breaks and nutrition teaching, had significantly higher Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test scores.

Can Adults Use Brain Breaks?

Though studies have not been done in adult learners, one could hypothesize that short brief breaks including physical activity or relaxation during lectures or work may make us more productive learners. At a minimum we know that prolonged physical inactivity is unhealthy — and can contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes — for adults. So encourage your clients to move more to learn more!