How does recess and gym help learning at school?

What does your child say when someone asks about his or her favorite subject? Does your child usually say recess or gym? Do you cringe wishing that reading, math, or science was the answer? Actually, it’s not wrong to love recess or gym class, and recent studies show that recess and gym class are just as important as reading, math, and science for your child’s overall development.

With budgets being cut and pressure on academic performance increasing, it is no surprise that recess and gym class are being sacrificed. Research is showing that this is a big mistake and children need both recess and gym class.


Recess is a daily scheduled break in your child’s school day for unstructured physical activity and play, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s a break from the constant learning, thinking, and working your child has to do in the classroom. After this break, your child will be able to think better, remember better, focus on classwork and be less fidgety in the classroom. Recess provides your child the opportunity to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. It’s an opportunity for your child to develop social skills that they are not able to develop in the structured classroom.

Gym Class

Gym classes in school are being dramatically cut. The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found in 2011 that only 52 percent of 9-12 grade students attended one or more gym classes in a week at school, and only 32 percent of students attended a daily gym class at school. Gym class is important for a variety of reasons: children who attend gym and are more physically fit have been shown to perform better on tests and were able to remember and recall facts better then students with a lower fitness.

It has also been shown that children who attend a regular gym class have fewer behavior problems at school. Gym class is a great place for children to learn sport skills, try new sports, and discover that physical activity is fun. Physically active children are more likely to be physically active adults. The more sport skills a child has, the more likely they are to participate in physical activity. This is very important with the current obesity epidemic, one in three children are overweight. Gym class plays an important role in decreasing rates of overweight and obesity.

Does your child have both recess and gym class in their school day? Both are important. It can help children:

  • focus better in school
  • perform better on tests
  • develop more social skills
  • behave better during class
  • acquire more sport skills
  • build the foundation to be physically active as adults
  • decrease their risk of being overweight

With all of these great reasons to have both recess and gym at school, it is a real shame that schools are cutting backing. You should contact your school if your child does not have both recess and gym.

If your child does not have recess and gym class at school, there are other ways for them to get physically active. Find out what sports your child’s school offer. They may have other physical activities such as Girls on the Run.

You can be physically active as a family if your school doesn't offer programs or your chlild does not want to participate in them. Try taking a walk or bike ride, the fall weather is perfect for one of these choices. Play a sport or game in your yard or local park. If you want to stay indoors or do not have a lot of time, exercise videos, dancing to music, or active video games (such as Just Dance) are also a great choices. Remember children need at least one hour a day of physical activity!

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