I loved recess as a kid. When I was a student I went to a Catholic school and we didn’t even have a playground, and yet every day we went outside and played on the asphalt of the church and school parking lot. We jumped rope or played kickball or tag and I loved every minute of it. Being outside and running off some steam seemed to make everything easier in afternoon. Phys ed was also a regular part of my grade school and junior high experience as was swimming year-round for several years, playing softball, and skiing. After school in the winter I would hop the fence and ice skate on the neighbor’s make-shift rink, and in the summer I spent my days outside either swimming or playing with the neighbors. It seemed that back in the olden days, as my kids like to call it, we had a lot more time each day for playing outside and being physically active.
Nowadays with budget cuts and busy schedules fewer students are given time to run off steam during the school day. Phys ed, even at the grade-school level, is only a couple of days a week and recess time is limited. After school, most kids come home and spend their time indoors rather than playing outside and although many young children play some organized sports, by the time they are 9 or 10 most have stopped playing unless they are very passionate about it (or their parents are). These late grade schoolers and middle schoolers spend very little time outside of school running around and playing and since phys ed time has diminished a lot even at school few are getting daily exercise.
This lack of regular physical activity has broader effects than just the obvious one of weight and cardiovascular health issues. Recent studies show that children who exercise regularly do better academically too. It’s not clear exactly why this relationship exists but it is pretty clear. Anecdotally, my seventh grader is having his best semester of middle school so far and has phys ed as a semester-long elective so I wonder now if that is part of the reason why!
Being physically active every day has lots of benefits including lowered stress levels, better mood, improved appetite regulation and now evidence that academic performance in enhanced too…. I can’t see a downside! So get your kids outside and you’ll reap the benefits.