Is Cutting Recess Harmful to Children’s Health?

If you ask elementary students what their favorite part of the school day is, some may say recess. But with many schools focusing on instructional time, recess can get cut out of the school day. Are we posing a health risk to our children by doing so?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term effects of physical inactivity include being overweight or obese, which is also influenced by a poor diet. This increases risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status.

Not only does physical activity during recess affect physical health, but mental health as well.

“There are a lot of good studies on recess supporting physical and mental health, especially for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),” says Matt D. Roth, MD, a ProMedica Physician specializing in family and sports medicine. “Being physically active improves concentration.”

So how much time should a child be active in one day?

“The recommendation for physical activity for children is 60 minutes per day,” says Dr. Roth. “Even though children can’t get that full hour at school, they are more likely to be active after school as well.”

A recent Stanford study found that a high-quality recess program can help students feel more engaged, safer and positive about the school day.

Ann Cipriani, District Health Coordinator for Toledo Public Schools (TPS), says that recess is encouraged but not required. “The decision is made by each building and/or teacher how to best incorporate recess into their schedules.”

Although recess may not be required, TPS elementary students still have physical education twice per week. And, there are other ways for students to get physical activity outside of recess and physical education. “Several schools may build additional time into their schedules for walking clubs, before-school activities, and after-school activities that focus on physical activity as a component,” says Cipriani.

Regardless of the opportunities for children to be physically active during school, parents play an important role in making sure their children get the movement they need when at home. Encouraging daily physical activity may be challenging, but it’s necessary, especially as the time for exercise at school is limited.

Want to learn some tips for getting your kids more active? Read Encouraging Healthy Habits in Kids.