Recess is Key for Increasing Kids’ Physical Activity and Health

HOST 1: There might be fewer sports programs. But there’s still recess.

HOST 2: Nonprofits are stepping in to make sure that kids are still getting active during the school day despite space limitations. Theresa Avila reports.

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The way Shakiyah Copening remembers it, recess in school used to be simpler. 

COPENING: When we were kids, recess was just, they gave us a bunch of jump ropes and they’re just like go play!

Copening is a play coach with Asphalt Green. It’s a nonprofit group that partners with city schools to ensure kids have access to fun, physical activities during recess in school. 

A lot of them don’t. Physical education classes aren’t readily available and opportunities for playtime during recess are rare.

Add to that, they don’t get the proper nutrition at home, Copening says. 

COPENING: Our kids, they’re getting fat. it’s just as real as it gets.

Recess has long served as an opening during the busy school day to get kids active. but schools have limitations that make that harder to achieve according to David Ludwig of Asphalt Green.

LUDWIG: When you take these types of space and budget constraints into consideration, the schools need help.

More than a quarter of the city’s schools are in violation of a state mandate that they provide physical education resources, according to a new report by the office of the city’s controller.

Blame it on lack of space, lack of funding, lack of sufficient supervision, the usual.

Resources might be slim, but schools have a window of opportunity. 

LUDWIG: what they do have every day, is recess. 

Having 20-25 minutes a day that kids can look forward to for having physical activity has lifelong implications, he says.

LUDWIG: if you’re not having fun as a kid moving around, you know, what are the chances that you’re going to get involved in a sport and be active later in life?

And on a Friday afternoon, more than 200 students gathered at Asphalt Green in East Harlem to play games like Gaga Ball. Ten-year-old Saben Baez explains the game to me.

BAEZ:There’s a ball and you have to try not to let it hit your foot, you have to hit the ball with four fingers, if it hits your foot you’re out.

He says he’s pretty good at it. Mostly, because he wins.

Shakiyah Copening says it takes an awful lot out of her to work with kids on games like Gaga Ball. She says kids are naturally chock-full of energy.

COPENING: These kids are on the 1000. like every minute. so you just kind of have to be ready for that energy it’s going to come at you full-force. And if they don’t have an outlet to get this energy out, they’re going to be all messed up.

Asphalt Green currently works with 61 schools in the city but hopes to increase that number. 

Theresa Avila, Columbia Radio News.

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