MCHbest. NPM 8: Physical Activity
Strategy. School-based Programs and Activities: Active Recess
Approach. Implement 30-minute, semi-structured or structured recess breaks in elementary schools.
Overview. Semi-structured or structured recess breaks throughout the school day have been found to be effective for increasing physical activity among elementary school children.1
Evidence. Scientifically Rigorous.2 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. Access additional peer-reviewed evidence through the Cochrane Library. (Read more about understanding evidence ratings).
Target Audience. Children/Schools.
Outcome. Increased level of physical activity. 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 Erwin, H.E., Ickes, M., Ahn, S. & Fedewa, A. (2014). Impact of recess interventions on children's physical activity - A meta-analysis. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(3), 159-167.
2What Works for Health. Robert Wood Johnson. 2021 County Health Rankings. available: What Works for Health 2021