As the number of children diagnosed as overweight or obese increases, and a growing amount of evidence points to physical activity as a means of managing symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, greater attention is being placed on recess and physical activity. Trends in leisure activities in young children, including video games and other stationary activities, as well as greater emphasis on academic activities in the schools, have resulted in fewer opportunities for movement. There is a wealth of information regarding the benefits of exercise, including the recent report, “Nation’s kids need to get more physical.” The Institute of Medicine is recommending that physical education become a core subject, and that schools allow daily opportunities for children to be physically active, for at least 60 minutes a day.
One of the ways that physical activity is incorporated in the school day is through recess. In the March issue of OT Practice, Andrew Waite discusses the idea of recess as a meaningful occupation for students. He presents several ways that occupational therapists can promote health and wellness, social participation, and inclusion of all children during recess. His article is titled: Take it Outside – Occupational Therapy’s Role in Making the Most of Recess.
Also last month, Liz Goodwin, author of the Yahoo News blog “The Lookout”, wrote an article titled, “After Years of Recess Erosion, Schools Try to Get Kids Moving Again,” about the ways that schools are trying to bring back physical activity in the schools. Some of the schools in the article are using “brain breaks” and Tai Chi movements, while another school went as far to add hours to their school day to incorporate more time spent engaged in physical activity, expanding to 8 hours a day.
The article mentions the Let’s Move initiative, introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama. One of the core initiatives of this program is increasing physical activity for children. The Let’s Move website, and its school-based website , Let’s Move Schools, provide many resources to get started and address this growing need.
Have you made any steps towards incorporating physical activity in your schools? Do you have a favorite exercise program for your students? What are the challenges you have faced in making these crucial changes?