Getting schoolchildren active in class to build lifelong healthy habits

Could getting schoolchildren to be more active in class encourage them to sit less and improve their learning experience? A new study hopes to find out.

Researchers at Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, Nottingham, and Victoria University (Australia) are working with Year 5 teachers and their pupils in seven Leicestershire schools on the CLASS PAL (Physically Active Learning) project to help them incorporate ‘physically active learning’ into their daily lessons. 

Teachers are being encouraged to integrate movement into the teaching of normal lessons, which could not only enhance children’s engagement and enjoyment of learning, but also help make the school day less sedentary.

The research is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East Midlands. This is a partnership of regional health services, universities and industry which turns research into cost-saving and high-quality public health initiatives.

Dr Lauren Sherar from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine East Midlands is the lead investigator for the project. She said: “Schools have a unique opportunity to change the modern culture of sitting, by introducing active breaks and teaching through movement.

“Sitting for long periods is linked to poorer health in adulthood, so if we can encourage children to sit less from as early as primary school, it’s possible we could influence their future habits, for example how they might approach sitting in the workplace. There is also evidence to show that active learning helps enhance children’s engagement in the classroom and aids cognitive development, so this project may have dual education and health benefits.” 

An early pilot was carried out in Leicestershire schools over the past year to understand how teachers can best implement active learning and movement breaks in class.

Mrs Sally Gambles from Great Bowden Academy in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, was one of the teachers whose class took part. She said: “Being part of the CLASS PAL project has been great. It has been really interesting to see how teaching through physical activities has impacted on the children’s learning.

“It has been especially effective for those who find the more formal methods of schooling difficult. Using active breaks helps to refocus the children’s concentration on the task in hand and active learning gives them a kinaesthetic experience to aid their memory. I found that many of the concepts and ideas I used can be tailored to many subject areas. Active learning is now something that is embedded in my daily teaching.”

CLASS PAL includes a training workshop with supporting online information and resources to help teachers introduce active learning into their classrooms. There is also a fun animation video to help spread the message on the importance of physically active learning.

Visit the CLASS PAL website to access these resources and to find out more about the project.

Partners include the Youth Sport Trust and Affinity Teaching School Alliance.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 17/15

About Loughborough University

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 228697. Bookings can be made online via

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey. Loughborough was ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2017 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.


NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands is a partnership of regional health services, universities and industry which turns research into cost-saving and high-quality care through cutting-edge innovation.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit

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