Involvement of teachers as participants in school recess — leading games, monitoring play and ensuring conflicts — may boost kid’s physical activity, a new study has found.
Recess is seen by educators and policymakers as a valuable part of a child’s school day, in part because physical activity plays an important role in helping to curb high child obesity rates.
The findings, published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, suggested that students are more likely to be active and engaged during longer recess periods.
“While recess is often perceived as a break for students and teachers alike, it can also be an opportunity for teachers and students to interact in more informal settings, for teachers to model healthy behaviour and appropriate social skills and for students and teachers to develop stronger relationships,” said lead author William Massey, Assistant Professor at the Oregon State University in the US.
For the study, the team outfitted 146 children in grades 4-6 from seven schools with fitness tracking devices to monitor their physical activity during the school day, including recess.
They examined several variables that affect both a child’s engagement in recess activities and the amount of physical activity they netted during recess periods.
The researchers also observed recess activity for 8,340 students at nine schools and analysed the quality of the recess environment and the students’ engagement in activities.
They found that the average recess period was nearly 23 minutes and that students averaged just under 42 steps per minute during recess. The researchers also found that boys averaged about 10 more steps per minute than girls in each recess period.
Overall, recess contributed to 27 per cent of the students’ daily step count average, even though it made up just 5.6 per cent of the children’s school day. The researchers also found that boys were more engaged in recess than girls.
“This study underscores the importance of a high quality recess experience for children, including the need for adults who are actively engaged with the children on the playground,” Massey noted.