*First author is Matthew Fallon
Are kids getting the amount of exercise and play at school that they really need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests they probably aren’t.
So what, you say? The CDC report tells us that:
This level of school activity is in stark contrast to the recommended level of play for children. It is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day (3). Children, beginning around age 6, spend over half of their waking day either in school or doing homework, so it would be reasonable to expect that they receive at least half of their bare minimum daily level of play during school hours. Yet as of 2007, the average elementary student gets less than 30 minutes of recess each day.
Young children especially need recess and time for free play:
Elementary school students are still active during recess, though not optimally so, engaging in physical activity 59% of the time and vigorous activity 21% of the time (5). This means that elementary students, getting slightly less than 30 minutes for recess, are physically active for even less time than they have for recess.
Children that don’t get any opportunity to play and exercise during school are unlikely to make up for it after school. An experiment conducted in 2000 found that children are less active after school when they have had no P.E. or recess during the day than if they were offered these opportunities for play (6). Habits built during school hours are carried home.
Why is recess play important?
So when schools take time for students to get exercise, it aids in the ability of their students to learn their material during the rest of the day and in the long-term mental health of their student body.
It’s social too!
Recess encourages social interaction and development for children in a unique play environment, where they are able to interact with large peer groups and cooperate to make the rules for their games and activities (10). They share folk culture, learn to resolve conflicts, and how to interact with peers (11). This contrasts with home play, which is usually alone or with an adult or one or two peers. It also contrats with extracurricular activities, which typically involve large peer groups but are adult directed. The development of positive peer relationships during recess can have long-term positive effects:
In an era when childhood obesity has doubled over the past 30 years, and adolescent obesity has tripled over the same span (15), children and adolescents need more opportunity to be active during the day. Daily physical activity is also important for good mental health, a serious issue when adolescent psychosocial disorders are becoming more common (16). School play, particularly in a recess setting, also plays an important role in the positive development of school-age children, including academic success and development of social skills.
What you can do:
(1) Check to make sure children you care about have recess at school.
(2) If they don’t join campaigns to restore recess (they have step-by-step guidelines):
National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Policy/Ranger-Rick-Restore...
*Matthew Fallon is a student at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
BLOG SERIES ON PLAY