Recess Debate Continues Despite Scientific Evidence of Its Value

authordebStarred Page By authordeb, 24th Apr 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Children's Health

Some believe recess is a waste time regardless of the fact there is no practical evidence to support this claim however; there is sufficient research that recess has beneficial effects on children’s mental and physical health.


As long as most of us can remember recess was the part of the school day that as children we looked for to, fresh air, running, climbing, jumping allowing us time to play and us our imaginations. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement had noted they believe recess is a crucial and necessary part of a child’s development and should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons. They found recess provides a child with cognitive, academic, physical, social and emotional benefits.

Classroom Behavior

Researchers led by Romina M. Barros, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University examined data on 11,000 third-graders enrolled in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Children 8 to 9 years were divided into two groups; no or minimal recess (less than 15 minutes a day) and those with recess of over 15 minutes a day. Children’s classroom behavior was evaluated by their teachers using a questionnaire. The study revealed children who receive more recess have better behavior in the classroom and are likely to learn more. (School Recess and Group Classroom Behavior, Romina M. Barros, Ellen J. Silver, Ruth E. K. Stein, Pediatrics Feb 2009, 123 (2) 431-436; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2007-2825)

Fruit/Vegetable Consumption

A study from Cornell University Food & Brand Lab conducted the study in the school district in Orem, Utah, consisting of seven schools, grades 1-6 participated. Three schools were switched to have recess before lunch and four schools had held recess till after lunch. For four days in spring of 2011 and 9 days in the fall of 2011 researchers measured fruit and vegetable waste by standing next to the trash cans and recording the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that each student consumed or threw away. Measures were also taken on whether or not each student had eaten one serving of fruit or vegetables. A total of 22,939 observations were taken. The researchers concluded that schools with recess before lunch found children had ate 54 percent more fruit and vegetables and there was also a 45 percent increase of children who consumed of at least one serving of fruits and vegetables. (Joseph Price, David R. Just. Lunch, recess and nutrition: Responding to time incentives in the cafeteria. Preventive Medicine, 2015; 71: 27 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.11.016)


The National Association for the Education of Young Children found that among the many benefits of recess when children are on the playground they exercise leadership, teach games to each other, take turns, and learn how to resolve conflict. When at recess children are in a free choice situation and they to negotiate skills to keep play going. When children are supervised on playground children are taught games and conflict resolution and there is little fighting among children. All these things improve social and emotional skills. (Play, Policy, Practice Interest Forum


Can recess influence eyesight? According to researchers from Taiwan recess has an influence on eyesight at least for nearsightedness. Researchers examined the effect of outdoor activity during recess on changes of nearsightedness among elementary students 7 to 11 years of age recruited from two nearby schools located in a suburban area of southern Taiwan. One school was the intervention the other the control group. The intervention group consisted of performing a recess outside the classroom program that encouraged children to go outside for outdoor activities during recess. The control school did not have any special programs during recess. The study recruited 571 students with 233 participating in the intervention and 238 served as control. At the start of the study there were no difference between the two schools concerning age, gender, baseline refraction, and myopia prevalence. . After 1 year, new onset of myopia was significantly lower in the outdoor recess group compared to the control group ((8.41% vs. 17.65%). There was also significantly lower myopic shift (the development of cataract may increase the dioptric power of the lens, commonly causing a mild to moderate degree of myopia) in the outdoor recess group compared to the control group. The researchers concluded Outdoor activities during class recess in school have a significant effect on myopia onset and myopic shift. (Outdoor Activity during Class Recess Reduces Myopia Onset and Progression in School Children, Wu, Pei-Chang et al. Ophthalmology, Volume 120, Issue 5, 1080 – 1085)

Total Daily Physical Activity

According to Active Living Research children can accumulate up to 40 percent of their total daily physical activity during recess. The percentages of recess time during which children engage in physical activity ranges from 16 percent to 68 percent among boys, and 15 percent to 52 percent among girls. Recess time contributes to total daily physical activity by five to 40 percent for boys and five to 31 percent for girls. (Active Living Research, Research Brief January 2012,


A study from the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences focused on movement and examined how children cooperated with one another afterward. Researchers had built a swing set that allowed two children in unison in controlled cycles of time. Pairs of four year olds who did not know each other were assigned to groups at random to either swing together in precise time, swung out of sync with each other, or didn't swing at all. Afterwards all the groups took part a series of tasks designed to evaluate their cooperation. In one activity, the children played a computer game that required them to push buttons at the same time in order to see a cartoon figure appear. Another, called the "give and take" activity, involved passing objects back and forth through a puzzle-like device. Researchers found children who swing in unison completed tasks faster which indicated better cooperation than those who were out of sync. On the button-push task, for instance, the pairs who had been swinging together showed a greater tendency to strategically raise their hands before they pushed the button so as to signal their intent to the other child, which proved to be a successful tactic for the task. The study suggests suggested that synchronization experience increased intentional communication between peer partners, resulting in increased coordination and cooperation. (Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, Andrew N. Meltzoff. Synchronized movement experience enhances peer cooperation in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2017; 160: 21 DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2017.03.001)

Schools with Recess Requirements

These states have passed legislation requiring recess (as opposed to unspecified “physical activity” or physical education) for elementary school children: Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri and Virginia.

Talk to your school, district, or state education office to get P.E. and recess back into your school. Resources to help you are available at Peaceful Playground Right to Recess Campaign


Child Behavior, Child Development, Children, Emotions, Food, Myopia, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Play, School Recess, Social Skills

Meet the author

author avatar authordeb
Author of the Love and Laughter series
Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Freelance Health Write
Works with Media companies for interviews and articles such as Howie Mandel for Afib,

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