The Center for Health Equity (CHE) has created Pitt Moves, which organized brief student-led “exercise” times during a class break in approximately 10 classes this term. With support from Pitt’s HealthyU initiative, this student-directed and -centered physical activity break project aims to create a culture of non-sedentarism at Pitt Public Health.
"We are participating as part of my Global Women’s Health class and I love it! The students seems to also really enjoy it. It was really fun to look around the room today and see everyone participating—exercising and bonding,” says Jessica Burke, BCHS professor and associate dean for education. “I think it’s a wonderful example of a small public health action that we can take within our own building."
The project was born in a rather "serendipitous way," says Patricia Documet, BCHS professor. She always tells her students to stand up and move around during class breaks. As a result, BCHS master's student, India Hunter, began to share her knowledge as a fitness trainer. From there, the class started engaging in brief exercises during breaks. Raul Amruthapuri, BCHS doctoral student and teaching assistant for the class, suggested that they write a proposal for Healthy U to replicate exercise breaks in other classes. According to the literature, breaks improve cognition and mood, and decrease boredom in the classroom. The entire class gave feedback on ideas for the proposal, which was funded in December of 2017.
Students invited instructors to participate and if they said yes, they tried to recruit one or more students from that class to lead physical activity breaks. Ten classes participated including one in Nursing and two in Social Work. Raul is the project director and India is receiving hours for a collaborative project through the Mid Atlantic Public Health Training Center. She also created the curriculum and trained the volunteers to lead exercises during class breaks. Alysse Littleberry, BCHS student, is conducting an evaluation of the project for her practicum.
At the project’s culmination event, students shared their experience and experts and practitioners spoke on the topic. Students in each class that participated in at least half of the physical activity breaks during the semester were entered into a raffle to receive prizes. Toward the end of the event, the students led a physical activity break for the entire audience. The students also presented a poster at Dean's Day.