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Want straight A's? Give 'em more recess!

Mary Hasson

“So what’s your favorite subject?” 

“Recess. Or Gym.”

Sound familiar? It turns out the kids are onto something. A new study shows kids who get out and move, run, or do other physical activity in the course of the school day focus better, test higher, and learn better: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-04-14-letsmoveinschool15_ST_N.htm

Exercise and sports build character (see my previous column, “Are We Raising Soft Kids?”). But now we know that it boosts brain power as well. Even short bursts of activity (five or ten minutes, perhaps as a transition from one subject to another), get the blood moving to the brain and increase a child’s focus and concentration.  Schools that provide longer recess or extra physical activities not only see their students’ grades and test scores improve (especially for girls), the children behave better too.

In addition, students who participate in after-school sports teams or physical activities get better grades and are more likely to graduate.  Interestingly, the study’s authors note that Asian elementary school students, who routinely outscore their American counterparts in most subjects, enjoy a 10-minute break after each 50 minutes of class time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed 50 previous studies for this research.  Their recommendation:  children should spend at least 60 minutes in daily physical activity, thirty minutes of it within the school day.

The study certainly squares with my experience.  In our homeschooling days, I often sent my rambunctious boys to run laps around the cul de sac in between subjects.  And both my boys and my girls seemed to buckle down better after a mid-morning game of street hockey.  I remember chafing as a “school-kid” at the hours on end spent sitting at my desk, writing, reading, and, yes, doodling.  So, I was a pushover when my kids begged for sports breaks, promising that they’d come back in ready to work even harder.  They usually did.

It’s nice when science backs up mother’s intuition.  Send those kids out to play!

Topics: Culture , Education , Health , Parenting

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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