Acute Effect of Intermittent Exercise and Action-Based Video Game Breaks on Math Performance in Preadolescent Children

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the acute effects of video game breaks and intermittent exercise breaks, performed at varying intensities, on math performance in preadolescent children. Methods: A total of 39 children (18 males and 21 females; aged 7-11 y) completed 4 experimental conditions in random order: 8 hours of sitting interrupted with 20 two-minute low-, moderate-, or high-intensity exercise breaks or 20 two-minute sedentary computer game breaks. The intensity of exercise breaks for the low-, moderate-, and high-intensity conditions corresponded with 25%, 50%, and 75% of heart rate reserve, respectively. Math performance was assessed 3 times throughout each condition day using a 90-second math test consisting of 40 single-digit addition and subtraction questions. Results: There were no significant differences in percent change in math scores (correct answers out of attempted) by condition [low: −1.3 (0.8), moderate: 0.1 (1.3), high: −1.8 (0.7), and computer: −2.5 (0.8); P > .05]. There were significant differences in percent change in math scores over the course of the condition days with lower math scores reported at end-of-day test compared with midday test [−2.4 (0.5) vs −0.4 (0.3); P = .01]. There were no significant condition × time, time × age, condition × age, or condition × time × age interactions (all Ps > .05). Conclusion: Action-based video game and exercise breaks elicit the same level of math performance in children; however, time of day may impact this relationship. These findings may have important implications for instructional time in elementary classrooms.