Recess: A Magic Potion!

Authored by Michael Dedekian, MD
Director of Countdown to a Healthy ME Clinic

Photo of Children Playing at RecessI often joke with my patients that as soon as a magic potion is invented that will cure their disease they’ll be first on my list to receive it. Indeed, it is an encouraging time to be a physician because of the quickly expanding array of new medicines and treatments available for our patients. However, some of the best treatments, especially ones that can prevent disease, may be centuries old and right under our noses. What is surprising is that we are only now beginning to scientifically validate some of these simple approaches.

One magic potion is school recess.

In late December 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement on the importance of recess. In the policy statement, a review of the most recent scientific evidence on the positive benefits of recess was presented. The bottom line? There is good evidence to support social, emotional, cognitive and health benefits of recess.

As an endocrinologist I would also argue that recess has important hormone health benefits, especially when it involves moderate physical activity: better sensitivity to insulin with subsequent reduction in diabetes risk, improved satiety (a better chance children will know when they’re full and not overeat), and a positive effect on growth, bone health and puberty.

The policy statement was prompted by reports that recess, distinct from physical education, is often at risk for being reduced or eliminated as classroom based academic goals expand. Concerns were also raised that withholding access to recess is sometimes used as punishment.

Imagine a medicine with no side effects that would improve your child’s growth, school performance, social skills, hormone levels, muscle development, and prevent diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer. Would you give this medicine to your child? I would! Recess is an example of a magic potion and it is encouraging that the American Academy of Pediatrics is using its voice to advocate for its protection. This is another step in the right direction as we build healthy futures for our children.


This blog post is brought to you by Let’s Go! Healthcare, generously funded by Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation’s Growing Up Healthy Initiative.