Physical Activity During School
Schools can facilitate increased physical activity during the school day by encouraging students to be active; providing students with space, facilities, equipment and supplies that make participating in activity appealing; and providing organized times and structured physical activities for interested students.
Recess or physical activity breaks offer an excellent opportunity for youth at all grade levels to engage in free play or semi-structured physical activity during the school day, and allows youth the opportunity to apply skills learned in physical education. Recess should not, however, replace physical education or be used to meet time requirements set forth in physical education policies. Participation in recess is associated with academic benefits, such as improving attentiveness, concentration, behavior, and time on-task in the classroom. CSPAP Pg. 14
Recess, in the elementary school setting, often centers around a playground or outdoor play structures. For a child with a disability the lack of accessibility of a playground can present a barrier to participation and limit opportunities for physical activity. It can also further segregate the child with a disability from classmates during the recess period which may have social consequences. Accessible playgrounds can promote inclusion and increase opportunities for physical activity.
Accessible Play Areas: A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas
Applying Principals of Universal Design to Playgrounds
Playgrounds for Everyone
Physical Activity Breaks in the Classroom
Studies have found that offering physical activity breaks during standard classroom instruction may have favorable associations with some indicators of cognitive functioning (e.g., test scores). Examples of physical activity breaks in the classroom include:
- Taking a 5-minute stretch break
- Marching in place
- Jumping with an invisible jump rope
- Doing semi-squats followed by knee lifts.
- Taking 2-3 laps around or throughout the classroom. CSPAP Page 15
It is important to consider activity breaks in the classroom that do not just involve walking, marching or jumping. Stretching can be an important form of physical activity that can be performed on some level by most every student. An activity involving moving arms, hands and heads in addition to legs also includes children and youth with disabilities. These classroom breaks are often called “brain boosters” or “brain breaks” and involve physical activity as well as learning and social interaction activities.
Activity Break Resources
Active Play-Active Learning Brain Breaks Guide