January 28, 2009

Study: More recess, better behavior

School children in third grade who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more, U.S. researchers found.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York evaluated data on approximately 11,000 third-graders enrolled in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

The children, ages 8 to 9, were divided into two categories -- those with no or minimal recess, less than 15 minutes a day, and those with more than 15 minutes a day. There were an equal number of boys and girls.

The children's classroom behavior was assessed by their teachers using a questionnaire, principal investigator Dr. Romina M. Barros said.

A 2005 survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics showed the 83 percent to 88 percent of children in public elementary schools have recess of some sort, Barros said.

The study, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, also found the number of recess sessions per day and the duration of the recess periods have been steadily declining. Since the 1970s, children have lost about 12 hours per week in free time, including a 25 percent decrease in play and a 50 percent decrease in unstructured outdoor activities, Barros said.