Aryel Maharaj (BSc, 2015) and Alyona Koulanova (BSc, 2015) created the Fit-Breaks, a fitness initiative that was originally part of the U of T Scarborough Physical Literacy campaign, in 2016. (Photo by Wes Adams)
Monday, September 11 - 2017

Students busy with courses and part-time jobs often find it hard to exercise for even 30 minutes a day.

That’s where Fit-Breaks come in.

“Fit-Breaks are short bursts of physical activity, various exercises and stretches that we bring into the classroom, using the natural 10-minute break that lectures have,” says Alyona Koulanova (BSc, 2015).

As undergrads, Koulanova and Aryel Maharaj (BSc, 2015) created Fit-Breaks with the support of Computer Science Professor Brian Harrington and Psychology Professor Jessica Dere.

The exercise breaks were originally part of the U of T Scarborough Physical Literacy campaign — a campaign that Koulanova and Maharaj created to educate students about the benefits of physical activity for overall well-being. The breaks evolved to be the largest part of the campaign, and can be tested empirically, allowing Koulanova and Maharaj to present findings in an ongoing research project. 

Since 2016, five classes have participated on a one-time basis, while eight others have incorporated Fit-Breaks into their weekly routine.  

“We believe we’re teaching students a life skill that they can take with them beyond graduation,” says Maharaj.

The Fit-Breaks initiative has garnered national attention. This June, Koulanova and Maharaj presented their research findings in Halifax, at the annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, whose members collaborate and share knowledge about pedagogical tools.

“This goes to show,” says Maharaj, “that good work comes from believing in undergrads and believing in their ideas.”