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The purpose of this study was to determine whether physical activity has a positive relationship with school engagement regardless of the presence or absence of a recess or lunch break before the classroom lesson.


Data were collected over three ten-week periods: January–April 2014 (Time 1), October–December 2014 (Time 2), and April–June 2015 (Time 3).


A cohort of 2194 adolescents (mean age = 13.40 years, SD = .73) wore an accelerometerduring the hour before a mathematics lesson and completed a questionnaire following the mathematics lesson to assess school engagement in that lesson.


Linear mixed models indicated that moderate-intensity activity before a mathematics lesson had a positive linear relationship with cognitive engagement (β = .40, p < .05). Recess breaks before a mathematics lesson had a negative relationship with overall, behavioural, emotional, and cognitive engagement (β = −.18, p < .01, β = −.19, p < .01, β= −.13, p = .03, and β = −.13, p = .04, respectively).


Promoting moderate-intensity activity prior to mathematics lessons could improve students’ cognitive engagement. Educators should be aware that students tend to demonstrate the lowest levels of school engagement after recess breaks.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Friday, August 28, 2020