Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology & Public Health Education

First Advisor

Tanis J. Walch


Background: Sedentary lifestyles are a major public health concern. Research has shown that frequent active breaks are beneficial to productivity, mental and physical health, and may prevent obesity.

Purpose: This study examined the effectiveness of a signage intervention in a university library to promote the use of physically active (AB) compared to inactive (IB) study breaks.

Methods: College students were observed over three weeks: pre-intervention (PRE); signage intervention (SIGN); and post-intervention (POST). Each week of observation consisted of 12 hours, (6, 2-hour segments) on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (36 hours total). SIGN consisted of table tents and signs posted in the library encouraging students to take active breaks while studying. Observation was conducted using our Systematic Observation of Breaks (SOBREAK) method, developed based on similar observational methods, such as SOFIT and SOPARK. Two trained researchers systematically observed two different types of study rooms, one silent and one social, scanning every 30 seconds and recording the number of AB and IB observed by gender. Types of breaks were operationalized based on the literature, where AB included: stretching, getting out of chair, walking, and IB: socializing, cellphone use, snacking. Data was analyzed using a repeated measures ANOVA (SPSS v21).

Results: A total of 4,320 scans observed 465 students. AB was significantly higher in SIGN compared to PRE and POST (5.5% vs. 4.3% vs 2.3%; p ≤ 0.001). IB SIGN was lower than

PRE and POST (7.9% vs. 9.0% vs. 6.7%; p ≤ 0.001). Female AB SIGN was higher compared to PRE (3.7% vs 3.0%; p ≤ 0.001), but not POST. Female IB SIGN was lower than PRE (8.6% vs 7.3%; p ≤ 0.001), but not POST. Male AB SIGN was higher than male PRE and POST (7.3% vs. 5.6% vs. 2.6%; p ≤ 0.001). Male IB SIGN was lower than PRE (7.2% vs 10.8%; p ≤ 0.001), but higher than POST (6.0%; p ≤ 0.001).

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that a visual reminder to take an AB while studying can positively influence physical activity. However, a visual reminder may be necessary for continued AB, and that a one-time signage intervention is not enough to encourage long-term AB. Future studies could examine AB vs IB in different ethnic groups and overweight compared to normal weight individuals.