Saturday, January 16, 2021

Play, Then Eat

January 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Fitness, Food Revolution

While away last week, I saw this article (“Play, Then Eat:  Shift May Bring Gains at School”) in the New York Times and e-mailed it to myself to write a blog post about it, in the event that none of our other bloggers covered it first.

We know that all around the country, due to budget constraints, schools are cutting out recess and physical education classes. And, no surprise, children are getting heavier. Unhealthier.

This scares me, because for many kids, gym class and/or recess are possibly the only physical activity they get all day. Naturally, I’m an advocate for both gym class and recess.

But apparently, for schools that are fortunate enough to still have recess, the timing of  it (i.e., before lunch vs. after lunch) can actually make a difference in a child’s health and behavior.

Per the article, “Some experts think it can, and now some schools are rescheduling recess — sending students out to play before they sit down for lunch. The switch appears to have led to some surprising changes in both cafeteria and classroom. Schools that have tried it report that when children play before lunch, there is less food waste and higher consumption of milk, fruit and vegetables. And some teachers say there are fewer behavior problems.”

Sounds like a win-win situation to me. And I can totally see how this makes sense.

I grew up in rural northern N.J., where, in elementary school, we had a “Walk/Run” program before lunch. It didn’t matter if it was 6 or 66 degrees outside, we had to move a little before lunch.

We could wiggle, walk, waltz with our friends for that daily loop … anything to unwind and move before hitting up the cafeteria. Maybe my school was on to something? After lunch we  had a more traditional recess, and then resumed our normal classroom activities … until the next day when we’d repeat this cycle all over again.

I’d have to talk to my old teachers to see if they noticed a real difference in students’ behavior pre-Walk/Run program (it was always part of my school day as far back as I could remember) but, given the article’s assertions, I can only imagine it helped.

Seems to me if switching recess/activity pre-lunch can help kids’ behavior in the classroom and health … well, all the better.

How about you? Do your kids have recess and/or gym class still, and if so, is recess before lunch or after? Has the timing impacted their behavior?


12 Responses to “Play, Then Eat”
  1. WendyRG says:

    I totally believe in physical exercise and moving your body. But I have horrible memories of gym class because I was never and am still not an athlete in any way, shape or form. Gym class was torture. To me, gym equalled always being chosen last, being unable to accomplish the tasks, just praying to get out of there. Has anything changed?

    • lissa10279 says:

      Wendy, I think a lot of people have those memories about gym class. I think we’d all benefit from not having kids choose their own teams. It was always a popularity contest … not sure how things have changed, if at all. I still think encouraging physical activity is always a good thing, though.

  2. cggirl says:

    I have to say, besides the timing of recess – which you have a good point about – I also have to mention the amount of recess. When I was in grade school (in Israel) we had recess after every class. Except in the morning – we would have two class periods back to back in the morning. Then a brunch break – a long break or playing and eating a sandwich brought from home (we didn’t haw cafeterias). Then we had 40 or 45 minute class periods and 10-15 minute recess after every single class. And we’d walk or
    bike to and from school usually. And we’d go home at one o’clock or so, and eat a big lunch at home sometime after school.
    Ah the memories…. Anyway I am SHOCKED at how little recess time kids have here and now. They need it! Not just regarding weight. What about stess relief? And how can kids sit still or hours on end? They are KIDS! No wonder so many of them need Ritalin.

  3. cggirl says:

    Oh and social skills… Recess is good for that too….

  4. Inga says:

    When I was in elementary school, the other kids and I enjoyed a morning recess a few hours before lunch and then an afternoon recess right after lunch. This might have been because gym class came around just once or twice a week (the public schools in my area of central Michigan alternated gym, music, and art classes). I can’t imagine what it would have been like not to have had that release! The other kids and I looked forward to those recesses almost as much as we looked forward to going home at the end of the school day 🙂

    By cutting recess, I think one major lesson we are teaching kids is that physical activity is an optional (and maybe even totally unnecessary) part of life. We are accelerating the process that seems to take hold of many of us as we grow up; getting outside and having a good time (“playing”) becomes, simply, “exercise”- little more than a grudging obligation.

    • lissa10279 says:

      VERY good points, Inga: “By cutting recess, I think one major lesson we are teaching kids is that physical activity is an optional (and maybe even totally unnecessary) part of life.”

  5. love2eatinpa says:

    interesting article, thanks for sharing!
    i just asked my 7-yr old what he does at school. he said they have recess, then snack, then a little bit of schoolwork, then lunch, then recess again. so it sounds like they are sorta doing what your school did. as far as how it’s impacted his class’s behavior, it’s hard to say as i have nothing to compare it to. i’d like to think they know what they are doing, but who knows! 🙂

  6. Hil says:

    I have memories of torture in gym class too, and I am convinced that I would have a much healthier relationhip with movement and exercise had I not been subjected to it. I am not a fan of competitive sports or running, and I got it into my head that I just wan’t an exercise person becaue I was forced to do those things. More regimented PE actually translated into les physical activity for me because I lost my sense that physical movement could be fun.

    I think recess is very different from gym class because kids have the opportunity to pick a form of play that they enjoy with people they want to play with. When kids outgrow recess, I think it’s really imortant to offer a variety of options and not force a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, I was able to take dance classes to fulfill my PE requirement in high school, which was something I enjoyed and looked forward to.

  7. body health says:

    The trick sounds make sense. The children will feel hungry after a little activity. That’s really great to reduce the waste of food and increase children’s health.


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