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Recess and Executive Functioning Skills


Pediatric Exercise Science published research examining the effects of a physical activity program including both aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities on children’s physical fitness and executive functions.  Children from elementary school were divided into two groups – intervention (53 children) and control (52 children).  The intervention group participated in a 22-week physical activity program for 30 min during lunch recess, twice a week. Children in the control group followed their normal lunch routine. Aerobic fitness, speed and agility, and muscle strength were assessed using the Eurofit test battery. Executive functions were assessed using tasks measuring inhibition (Stroop test), working memory (Visual Memory Span test, Digit Span test), cognitive flexibility (Trailmaking test), and planning (Tower of London). The results indicated the following:

  1. children who participated in the congitively engaging aerobic exercise program showed significantly greater improvement than children in the control group on the Stroop test and Digit Span test, indicating improved inhibition and verbal working memory skills.
  2. no differences were found on any of the physical fitness variables.

The researchers concluded that a physical activity program including aerobic exercise and cognitively engaging physical activities can enhance aspects of executive functioning in primary school children.

Reference:   van der Niet, Anneke G.; Smith, Joanne; Oosterlaan, Jaap; Scherder, Erik J. A.; Hartman, Esther; Visscher, Chris. Effects of a Cognitively Demanding Aerobic Intervention During Recess on Children’s Physical Fitness and Executive Functioning.  Pediatric Exercise Science . Feb2016, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p64-70. 7p. 2 Charts.

Motor Minute ChallengesMotor Minute Challenges is an electronic book of 20 sheets to complete that encourage fine motor, visual motor and gross motor skills. Complete each challenge sheet by finishing pictures, mazes, physical activities and more. Time the tasks for 1-3 minutes or let the child complete each one at his/her own pace. These pages are great for challenges at home, indoor recess time and rainy day activities.  Find out more information.

Read the archives for more articles on the benefits of recess.