MCHbest. NPM 8: Physical Activity
Strategy. Active Recess
Approach. Promote an active, semi-structured, or recess break from the school day, typically before lunch.
Overview. Research indicate using active recess strategies are effective in increasing daily time in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for elementary and middle school children. Examples of studies with positive outcomes were those that used supervised inclusive games and activities; multicomponent investments in playground or activity equipment, marking or painting on equipment; or training and support for teachers and supervisors to promote physical activity in the school day.1 2 3
Evidence. Scientifically Rigorous. Semi-structured or structured recess breaks in elementary school, typically before lunch, involve a variety of planned, inclusive, and actively supervised games or activities. These recess breaks engage all students. Multi-compenent interventions include investments in playground and activity equipment, patiented markings on playgrounds, and training for teacher or specialists to lead activities. This strategy has been tested more than once and results trend positive overall. See the references at the bottom of the page for specific studies related to active recess break. Access the peer-reviewed evidence through the MCH Digital Library. (Read more about understanding evidence ratings).
Target Audience. Children/Schools.
Outcome. Increase in overall physical activity in elementary and middle school children. For detailed outcomes related to each study supporting this strategy, click on the peer-reviewed evidence link above and read the “Intervention Results” for each study.
Examples from the Field. Access descriptions of current ESMs that use this strategy directly or intervention components that align with this strategy. You can use these ESMs to see how other Title V agencies are addressing the NPM.
In South Carolina, efforts were made to increase the number of professional development opportunities for school staff to provide a minimum of 30 minutes per day of physical activity and ensure physical education interventions in schools were sustainable.
The Role of Title V. Title V agencies can support organizations to offer more recess or school-based programs through a number of approaches:
- Engage community partners through learning communities to share recess or other school program curricula that increases time in physical activity.
- Create workforce development opportunities for school staff and administration that promotes more physical activity during physical education or within academic lessons.
- Conduct quality improvement evaluation of schools that participate in increased physical activity interventions to find out what worked and for which populations.
Sample ESMs. Using the approach “Implement 30-minute, semi-structured or structured recess breaks in elementary schools,” here are sample ESMs you can use as a model for your own measures using the Results-Based Accountability framework (for suggestions on how to develop programs to support this strategy, see The Role of Title V in Adapting Strategies):
Note. ESMs become stronger as they move from measuring quantity to measuring quality (moving from Quadrants 1 and 3, respectively, to Quadrants 2 and 4) and from measuring effort to measuring effect (moving from Quadrants 1 and 2, respectively, to Quadrants 3 and 4).
1 Frost MC, Kuo ES, Harner LT, Landau KR, Baldassar K. Increase in physical activity sustained 1 year after playground intervention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2018 May;54(5 Suppl 2):S124-S129.
2 Gutiérrez-Martínez L, Martínez RG, González SA, Bolívar MA, Estupiñan OV, Sarmiento OL. Effects of a strategy for the promotion of physical activity in students from Bogotá. Revista de Saúde Pública. 2018 Aug;52:79.
3 Morris JL, Daly-Smith A, Archbold VSJ, Wilkins EL, McKenna J. The Daily Mile™ initiative: Exploring physical activity and the acute effects on executive function and academic performance in primary school children. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2019a Nov;45:101583.