Exercise in Schools: the 8-2-8-2 Model

In 2016, Good Athlete Project founders created a usable model for their studies of what they call “exercise-induced neural enhancement” – a twenty minute exercise routine based on graduate research at Harvard University. The model has been described in depth for a variety of grants, research studies, and publications. Below you can find an overview of what we call the 8-2-8-2 Model.

If you use the model in your school, workplace, or in your own life, please REACH OUT. We would be happy to help with implementation and hear how it has been helpful. And if you have interest in writing a short article for any of our publications, we are always happy to publish voices of practitioners.


Eight minutes (8:00) target cardio; (2:00) strength; (8:00) maintenance cardio; (2:00) balance. 

During the initial eight minute (8:00) ‘target cardio’ phase, participants selected a method of cardiovascular exercise appropriate to their existing fitness level: running, jogging, biking, or elliptical training. Participants were instructed to work toward an exertion level that would be challenging, but not exhausting; we kept this front of mind by asking participants to maintain a level of exertion measuring 7-8 on a 10 point scale. RPE is shorthand for “rate of perceived exertion”, a term the participants were familiar with, made famous by Swedish researcher Gunnar Borg (Borg, 1982). Borg’s exertion scales have been widely used to measure physiological intensity of participants in a variety of studies. As a measure of physical and psychological strain, exertion scales have proven to be sufficiently reliable and prove especially valuable when equipment is limited (Lamb, et al, 1999). 

After the initial target cardio phase, participants enter the two minute (2:00) strength phase. During the strength phase, participants perform thirty second (:30) bouts of Bodyweight Squats, Pushups, Side Lunges, and Burpees under the supervision of a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, using the guidelines outlined in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning, Chapter Five, Bodyweight Training (Davis, 2021). All participants were familiar with the technique required to perform these movements and did not require guidance. 

The ultimate, research-based, practitioner friendly version of #Exercise in School: the “8-2-8-2 Model”. If you’re an #educator, this is essential understanding – be sure to pass it along!

The third phase, ‘maintenance cardio’, lasted another eight minutes (8:00). During this second cardio phase, participants select a method of cardiovascular exercise which will allow them to maintain their exertion level without crossing over into a state of exhaustion. “Get into a groove and try to hold it for the next eight minutes,” we said. Eleven participants (n=11, 55% of total participants) changed their choice of equipment. The most common change was from treadmill to elliptical. Very little instruction was needed for this phase. 

The ‘balance’ phase lasted for two minutes (2:00). The balance exercise used in the study is referred to as Ankle Prehab. Participants stand on one leg and touch the toe of that leg with their opposite arm, then return to their initial position (e.g. Stand on the left leg, hinge at the waist and touch left toes with the right hand, return to standing position). Participants switched feet and hands every thirty seconds (:30). 

Through these four phases, the participants were kept at a medium-high level of exertion (RPE 7-8), without crossing over into exhaustion (9 or above would be too strenuous), for twenty continuous minutes. These parameters were selected for three reasons: 1) studies have shown positive results in as few as twenty minutes (Hillman, et al, 2009), 2) twenty minutes should be logistically compatible with one standard school period or workday, and 3) over-exertion could have deleterious effects (Tomporowski, 2003). This routine has been used in schools across the country, but EEG measurements were not used to validate those results. 


Again, this is just an overview of the method. Contact us for more research, or let us support your use of the model.

If you use the model in your school, workplace, or in your own life, please REACH OUT. We would be happy to help with implementation and hear how it has been helpful. And if you have interest in writing a short article for any of our publications, we are always happy to publish voices of practitioners.