Revamping Recess for Kids' Fitness

Report: Make School Recess a Priority So Kids Get More Physical Activity

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 24, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 24, 2007 -- School recess isn't just playtime; it's a golden opportunity to boost children's fitness, according to a new report.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today released a report that puts school recess at the head of the class among opportunities to make students' school days more active.

But the report doesn't back a free-for-all melee on the playground. Instead, the Foundation says grown-ups need to get in the game, supervising fun recess activities that involve all kids.

Why school recess? Because it's usually offered every day, whereas physical education (PE) classes are only offered twice a week at some schools.

Many schools have cut back on time devoted to recess (and PE), but the new report says kids perform better at school when they have a chance to burn off energy through healthy physical activity.

The new recess report includes the results of a yearlong experiment in which the Harvard Family Research Project revamped recess at a Boston elementary school.

The Harvard team used a nonprofit program called Sports4Kids, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In the Sports4Kids program, trained adults foster fun, healthy activities during recess at low-income schools. The grown-ups teach games to the kids and help them learn to handle conflicts without fighting.

The Harvard experiment showed a "positive ripple effect" from the Sports4Kids experiment, states the recess report.

For instance, the kids at the school became more cooperative and felt safer on the playground during recess, were more likely to join in physical activities during recess, and enjoyed being active.

Those benefits led to more productive classrooms, according to the report.

"All work and no play isn't good for the health and well-being of children," states the report. "If kids are fit, they are more likely to be fit to learn."

(What do your kids do for exercise? Discuss it with others on WebMD's Parenting: Preschoolers and Grade Schoolers message board.)

Show Sources

SOURCES: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "Recess Rules: Why the Undervalued Playtime May Be America's Best Investment for Healthy Kids and Healthy Schools," Sept. 24, 2007.

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