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Recess Cuts: A Growing Trend in the United States 
 
by Laurie July 05, 2005

The Benefits of Recess

The backlash against recess cuts has been based on several benefits that recess offers. Childhood obesity is a growing problem. According to the Surgeon General, number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled in the past two decades. The Surgeon General recommends that children get at least sixty minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.

Although physical education classes do provide children with an opportunity to exercise, most children will not get enough exercise from physical education classes alone. Additionally, many children do not have the facilities, time, or motivation to exercise after school. Recess can provide children with the extra exercise they need.

In addition to preventing obesity, exercising during recess may also help students pay attention during class. In 1993, Pelligrini and Davis published the results of a study on the effects of recess on classroom behavior. The results showed that many students build up excess energy and may become fidgety and unable to concentrate during class when denied the opportunity to exercise during recess. Additionally, the California Department of Education conducted a study that showed that children who are physically active score higher on the Stanford Achievement Test. If this is true, then schools that are cutting recess in order to increase class time and raise standardized test scores may actually be doing more harm than good.

The unstructured nature of recess has its benefits, too. During recess, children are able to interact with each other without the strictness imposed during class time. Children have to create their own rules and customs in order to get along. As a result, they learn important social skills, such as patience, communication, and sharing, and they learn to use these skills without an adult telling them to do so. Although students do occasionally get hurt during recess, most injuries are minor.

Finally, another benefit to recess is simply that it provides children with a chance to play. Children are children, and they like to play; many of the best childhood memories involve recess. Even without the health and developmental benefits, recess could still be considered worthwhile.

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