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Heather Erwin, Mark Abel, Aaron Beighle, Melody P. Noland, Brooke Worley and Richard Riggs


Recess is an important component of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program, providing approximately 1268 and 914 steps for boys and girls, respectively, within a 15-minute time period. The purpose of this study was to determine the contribution of unstructured recess on children’s school-day physical activity levels and to examine if recess and school-day physical activity levels varied by BMI, gender, and grade level.


One-hundred sixty third- to fifth-grade students from 2 elementary schools wore pedometers during 4 recess periods.


Recess accounted for 17% to 44% of school-day step counts. There was a significant main effect for grade level, but not for BMI or gender, on the percentage of school-day steps accumulated during recess.


A 15-minute recess makes a valuable contribution to children’s school-day physical activity, especially for the least active children. More research is warranted to determine environmental influences on children’s recess physical activity.