Ways to Incorporate Movement into the School Day


With a long school day, it can be a challenge for students to participate in physical activity, where it seems like students are only walking from class to class. There are ways to get students moving throughout the school day, it may just take some creativity. Movement can be incorporated into lessons or incorporated into the daily-school routine. Getting in movement throughout the school day is important for students at the Elementary, Middle, and High School level.

Some exercises that can easily be done in a classroom are:

  • Yoga
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Jogging in place
  • Dancing
  • Additional ideas are kept in our teacher toolkit

    Gym class and recess are always a great place and time to incorporate movement into the school day. Unfortunately, gym class and recess may not always be available for every age group. Surprisingly, recess has decreased over the years, which is unfortunate, because exercise from recess helps students pay attention in class, stay on task, and improves memory.1 With the growing concern about child overweight/obesity, recess increases the amount of time students engage in physical active throughout the day and week.

Elementary School

In elementary school, it can be easier to get in some movement throughout the day. At this age, recess is usually scheduled daily, while and gym class occurs weekly. However, there is always room for more movement throughout the day! Teachers can plan lessons where getting a little exercise is involved. Maybe do a math game where the answer is the number of jumping jacks the students have to do. Alternatively, maybe take a break in between topics to refresh by doing some type of dancing. Teachers can also try to plan a little yoga every day after lunch in order to refresh and make this type of movement part of the daily routine.


Middle School

When it comes to middle school, recess is usually absent in a student’s schedule, reducing the time allowed for physical activity throughout the day. Luckily, gym class is part of a student’s weekly schedule. Teachers in middle school can incorporate more movement in their classroom by adding activity as part of their lesson. Another way to incorporate movement could be maybe making lunch longer so that students have the chance to go outside and play some sports or take a walk. Before and after school intramurals could also increase movement for this age group.


High School

    The high school age group may be the hardest to get movement incorporated into the school day. At this point recess is reduced and gym class may not be required for every year in high school. Even at this age, there are still ways to incorporate movement into the day. Extending the lunch period could give students the option to do some activities and sports outside. There could also be a policy put into place that every student must either play a sport or be in a type of gym class to ensure that each student is getting some type of exercise throughout the week. With this, the school could offer a wider variety of gym classes. Maybe ones that specialize in different sports or skills.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/recess.htm
  2. https://fsnetoolkit.com/
  3. http://www.marylandschoolwellness.org/




Dr. Shauna Henley, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, University of Maryland Extension

Brianna Fachler, University of Delaware Undergraduate