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Do exercise breaks improve mental and physical fitness?

A friend of mine keeps a stationary bike in his office and whenever his energy level begins to drop he hops on and peddles for a few minutes. Although his evidence is anecdotal, he claims the small activity breaks throughout the day have improved his mental and physical fitness.

It seems there maybe something to his theory. Ongoing research for the Active and Healthy Schools Program has shown that incorporating exercise breaks into classroom instruction has helped to increase students' activity levels, improve their attention span and reduce discipline problems.

The video above shows an elementary school in Missouri involved in testing the program. At the school, the playground is divided into supervised zones featuring jump-roping and other activities, teachers lead kids in 3- to 5-minute activity breaks involving simple aerobic exercises and faculty wear pedometers to measure daily physical activity.

Those looking to increase their level of physical activity don't need to install an exercise bike in their office or start taking jumping jack breaks. Just clip a pedometer to your waistline. A 2007 Stanford study found the use of a pedometer increased participants' physical activity level by 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile of walking per day.

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