Return to Strategies for RECESS in Schools
Create an Environment Supportive of
Physical Activity During Recess
Creating active environments during recess enables students to select and participate in physical activities of their choice. Providing options for students at every grade level to self-select activities increases their physical activity levels and fosters collaboration, creativity, and fun. Strategic inclusion and oversight of opportunities for students with special needs or disabilities also is essential.
10. Provide adequate physical activity equipment.
Access to equipment can help increase physical activity 29–33
and provide opportunities for students to select physical activities of their choice. Examples of equipment include balls, hula hoops, flying discs, fabric tunnels, jump ropes, and beanbags. Schools should choose equipment that meets the developmental needs of students (e.g., assorted sizes of balls and manipulative equipment). They can also include items that students with varying abilities, including those with disabilities, can use. Schools should provide enough equipment to support a variety of activities and student choices.
11. Add markings to playground or physical activity areas.
Markings in playground or physical activity areas increase students’ physical activity levels during recess.29–33
Schools can paint surfaces with lines for recreational games (e.g., four square, hopscotch, beanbag toss, number grid) or traditional sports (e.g., basketball, soccer, volleyball). Schools can also have art teachers, community artists, or companies paint murals (e.g., mazes, castles, scenes) that spark creativity and encourage student-designed games and activities.
12. Create physical activity zones.
Physical activity zones can positively affect students’ physical activity levels during recess.30–33
These zones divide physical activity spaces into specific areas for different types of activities and provide better safety for students. For example, schools can use colors to create sports areas (red zone), fitness and skills areas (blue zone), and relaxation areas (yellow zone).31
These zones can be designated by existing markings or safety cones. Schools can also designate physical activity zones without markings, such as blacktops, greenspace, and walking or running track. Middle and high schools may create zones related to intramural sports, activity clubs, or competitive leagues that play on a specific schedule.
13. Provide planned activities or activity cards.
Planned activities and activity cards increase students’ physical activity levels during recess.30
Schools can identify options for different activities on different weeks. Activity cards can show students a variety of activities to choose during recess. Middle and high schools can provide access to weight training facilities, circuit training activities, and gymnasium spaces for group exercise, depending on how the school’s physical activity opportunities are organized and supervised.
14. Provide a combination of recess strategies.
Using a combination of different strategies has been shown to increase students’ physical activity levels.30–31
For example, a pilot study that used activity zones and play equipment at the elementary school level resulted in more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during recess.34
Middle and high schools are likely to use combinations of strategies as a way to use all of their available spaces and give students a variety of options.
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