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Short Recess = Bigger Kids?


New Member
So before I go to bed, I was just thinking about something. Most of the schools in my district have a 15 minute recess. When I went to school we had a full half an hour....now don't reduce me to pulp because I haven't looked up any studies on this and I don't know how long recess is in other parts of the country...but I was thinking that maybe schools are playing a factor in the obesity of today's youth. Recess time in our district is cut to make more room for academic time. With more and more technology developing, most kids sit at home playing video and computer games instead of going outside and getting the physical exercise that they need... I think its something like 30-60 minutes a day. Schools may be taking out the only activity time that these kids see in the day. So I was just thinking...could schools cutting back on the recess time be a factore in the rise of obesity?

I'm interested to hear thoughts on this...it might make for an interesting undergraduate thesis....which I need to come up with by the fall to start investigating, or else I won't be able to graduate...or something like that... :). But I was wondering if any other districts in other parts of the country have a shortened recess? Do you think I have something to work with, or am I completely off the mark here?

Happy Monday Everyone! :)

K/1 Teacher

Full Member

Yes, I agree with you. Kids need far more recess time and gym time. Those are being pushed to the side due to academic requirements. Have you seen Supersize Me? That documentary touches on some of these things along with what kids are eating in school cafeterias today. Do some research this would be a fascinating area to study!


I agree with you

When I was a kid (many moons ago), we had three recesses: two 15 minute recesses, and a half hour at lunchtime. Most of the schools in the district where I am now also have a similar recess schedule - but a few only have one half hour and one 15 minute or 10 minute recess - I'm not sure why. I think you are correct in that schools are contributing to obesity by shortened recess time (or none at all in some crazy schools!) Then you have recess being used as a discipline tactic - all or part of it taken away for various infractions. (Okay, I have been guilty of that myself, even though I know that the kids who usually get it taken away are the ones who need it the most - to run off all of their energy!)

Something else that contributes to that, I believe, is the limited amount of PE that elementary kids get. I know when I was in school we had at least a full hour once a week. Where I am, they get a half hour once a week, and some schools are on a 6-day specialist rotation schedule, so they may not even get PE some weeks.



Kids should definitely get more PE, but not recess. In PE most of the time, the students do physical work. However, for recess, some students (older ones) decide to sit in groups and talk instead of "running around." In Florida, the elementary day is 6 hours, which I believe is at least 30 minutes too short. Every school should require at least 15 min of PE and 15 min of recess per day, which should be a good amount so as not to waste valuable education time (which is ultimately more important than shaping them physically).
BTW, studying the correlation b/w obesity and recess sounds interesting, but I highly doubt you can prove that lack of recess contributes to obesity. Still, good luck.


Senior Member
You ARE on to something!

I am 53, so I went to school a thousand years ago, but one of my biggest memories of that time is recess. Even when I got to sixth grade, I remember just WALKING around with my friends. Sure, we girls would sit and gossip, but there was enough time to be active too. I don't remember how much time we had, but I remember a long morning recess and even longer time after lunch.

Beyond obesity, which is for sure a major problem today, I see wonderful kids every day who act up a lot in the classroom simply because they have so much energy! I sub a lot in middle school, where they don't really get recess anymore at all. In elementary, I've noticed the kids running and running, like little kittens at recess! They come in after that and they are more calm.

I disagree with the last poster who doubted that any study could prove lack of recess time contributed to obesity. If no one starts to study this, no one will ever know! To be sure, a one-person undergraduate thesis cannot possibly compile the conclusive data necessary to produce a defiinitve conclusion, but it is very possible that such a study could produce some sort of data indications that might lead to someone doing a more thorough and scientific study! One might possibly compare recess/PE hours from district to district and compare that to obesity statistics, for example. It's not conclusive, but it would provide indication of proof and the need for further investigation.

I DID see Supersize Me. Who would have thought that a month's worth of McDonald's food could almost kill a healthy young man? And yet, that happened. And keep in mind - THAT is not a conclusive study either! But it was enough to make people say, hmmmmm, and has led to some better practices on the part of McDonald's.

Bex21, I say, Go for it! Great idea!



One district where I sub cancels recess and specials on days with two hour snow delays. You teach for half an hour, go to lunch, and teach the rest of the day. Yes, test scores are very important to this district.



I believe in recess

I believe recess is an important part of an elementary child's day. At the school where I sub, the recess period varies from 15-30 minutes, depending on the grade. I'm not sure how that happened, but that is how it is. Fourth grade gets a full half hour. Second grade gets 20 minutes. I think fifth grade gets 15 minutes. I think the rest all get 20 minutes.

Personally, I hate to take recess from any child, but of course I do. I believe recess, whether it is spent playing or staring into space is necessary down time. Kids need some free time where they aren't required to do anything. For a child that "hates" school, or struggles through it, that time lets them regroup to deal with the rest of the day. For some kids, it simply exercise. For some kids, it's a chance to work on social skills. For others, it's a good time to get to know their teacher as a person. I know we are busy and I know we are trying to pack a lot into a school day. I do think though that taking away recess, or making it too short is counter-productive.

I remember growing up in the 70's we used to get recess immediately after lunch for a full half hour. Some time during the day - I can't remember if it was before lunch or after lunch, but I remember every day we got a structured recess with our teacher. That meant we played kickball or dodgeball or duck-duck-goose or something like that. That also meant our teacher played the game with us. I'm not sure if the teacher was required to play, or if it was just the way things were back then.

Well, that's my two cents....


Senior Member
good thoughts twin2!

Yes, those are ALSO really important reasons for recess.

Why do FIFTH graders get more time than SECOND graders? Makes NO sense!

Just for the record, I HATED dodgeball. Still gives me the chills to think about it.


Senior Member

We used to play dodgeball against a handball court and there were no rules about only hitting below the waist. Those balls came at us fast and furious.

I also hated the choosing of teams because I was small and always chosen very close to last. It was humiliating and I hate to hear that it's still being done. Granted it's survival of the fittest and I have grown up intact (!), but it didn't feel good at the time.

Anyhow, my main point is that I disagree with the correlation between recess time and obesity. Schools cannot possibly be responsible for everything. Check out the lunches students bring and their eating habits at home. Home is the most important source of behavior. I agree with the above poster who stated that recess is not going to help the kids lose weight because many kids do not run and jump, but sit and talk. Here in California, I believe, elementary schools must provide all students with 90 minutes of PE per week...hope that's accurate. However, that is not going to help obese children. PE is not constant exercise for 30 minutes a pop. Just my opinion.


Senior Member
I think recess is less of a contributor to obesity than other issues. That's not to say I don't think recess is important, I do, but it's because elementary kids need time out of their seats to move around. I also think it's important to remember that recess only occurs in elementary. If recess was a factor in obesity then we would see even more obese kids once they enter middle and high school where ther is no recess. I think the main factors in childhood obesity are all directly related to their lifestyle and nutrition at home.

As for school, well when I was in elementary things were much different. School breakfasts didn't include one package of Pop Tarts with chocolate milk. I cant believe we serve those to kids in the morning. At lunch time there was never an option to buy cookies or any other treats. We bought the school lunch and that was it. In the classroom we were never bribed on a daily basis with candy to learn our lessons. Now most classrooms are piled high with candy (ok I'm guilty of this one).


Oh yes - another dodgeball hater!

"Just for the record, I HATED dodgeball. Still gives me the chills to think about it."

Back in my day, we used those red rubber balls for dodgeball - not the nerf balls they use today. Those things STUNG when they hit you! Being small and not very good at playing the game, I was an easy and frequent target. I can still recall the look in John's and Tom's eyes as they got ready to throw that ball...


New Member

Thanks for the input you guys. I'll try to think of new angles to put it in...some of you made really good points..ie..PE is probably more beneficial than recess. But thank you everyone.

And on the subject of dodgeball, I always made sure I was the first one out. I HATED the game too. I got picked last for that reason. But I for some reason did not like the big red balls lunged at me as kids tried their best to knock me down. GO FIGURE! :)


new regulations

I agree that childhood obesity has become a problem, but I highly doubt it has much to do with recess and/or PE time. First as an obese child, I had 45 min recess every day and gym 3 times a week. A child's genetics and eating habits are the cause of the problems.
I will say the lunches and breakfasts provided at the school are also very unhealthy. Our students get pop tarts for breakfast and terrible choices for lunch. One day they had chips with a spoon of chili on it. How is that healthy?
The NCLB act is dictating new requirements for schools to follow to help reduce childhood obesity. We were informed of this at a school committee meeting. Each district and school in the country (as it was told to me) has to come up with a plan to make their schools healthier. I was floored when I heard the suggestions: check students' snacks and lunches to make sure they are on the approved list, and yes you need to use the approved list of snacks according to NCLB, inform parents of healthier alternatives, teach students about proper nutrition daily and make sure they have physical activity daily. Teachers will not be permitted to use food/candy as a reward, no bake sales, and no sweets will be allowed in the school so children can not eat them (so mom can not send in cupcakes for birthdays). Teachers are not permitted to eat anything from the non approved list in front of children. So teachers can not drink soda? Why not go to the root of the problem then? The government should stop the production of these so called sweets if they are so bad. Why should the schools have to do what the parents should be doing? Now those are only a few of the things I heard. I know I certainly don't have enough time to teach the core subjects, now I have to check their snacks daily and teach health??


Senior Member
I do not LIKE No Child Left Behind! However..

Geez...I certainly don't like the part about checking their food! BUT as a parent - NO BAKES SALES! NO CANDY AS A REWARD! Hooray! These are good directives!

As I said before, I went to school about a thousand years ago, and my memory is faulty, but I DO NOT remember teachers with sugar up their sleeves all the time every day.

I am a former fat child, and now, at age 53, on the heavy side. I have a string bean daughter who LOVES sugar. When I tried to talk my daugher about this, doc said, "OH that's your issue!" Like I was worried about her FIGURE.

Her figure is fabulous (she is almost 13). What is worrisome is her nutrition and what she is doing to her teeth.

I feel like unless you are a brown rice Montessori Hippie, these days, you have to allow all this CRAP. And it's not right.

Let's not make the teachers be the lunch-checkers. Absolutely. On the other hand, let us not send our children to Willie Wonkaville.


Kids Need More Recess

its not fair that the 1st graders get a longer recess than me a fourth grader. Kids need more recess.All I do in school is wait for recess.All the time I get is 5 minutes which is a enough time to go to the bathroom thats all the time I have.I vote kids need more recess. Haylee 4th grader