Feature Article - June 2009
Find a printable version here


A Look at Trends in Schools and School Districts

Recess Matters

Many schoolchildren have been getting less and less free time and fewer outlets for physical activity at school. The trend seems to have accelerated as schools responded to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by reducing recess time.

How important is recess? Many educators already know this, but some might be surprised to learn that taking a break during the school day leads to better classroom behavior.

A recent study, "School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior," published in the February 2009 issue of Pediatrics, looked at an equal number of U.S. girls and boys ages 8 to 9 years, and found that a break of 15 minutes or more was associated with better classroom behavior as judged by the teacher.

In addition to demonstrating this benefit of recess, the study showed that the trend especially impacts children from disadvantaged backgrounds. And, among children who do not have recess, almost two-thirds had minimal other physical activity in school. This is alarming, as school is where most kids spend the majority of their time, and many of them—particularly those who are disadvantaged and may live in areas that preclude them from taking part in activity outdoors—do not engage in physical activity outside of the school day.

In addition to the benefit of better behavior in the classroom, research has shown that recess can play an important role in social development, learning and health of children in elementary school.