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Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2011 Fall;5(3):289-97. doi: 10.1353/cpr.2011.0031.

Instant Recess®: a practical tool for increasing physical activity during the school day.

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Gramercy Research Group, Los Angeles School of Public Health, USA.



An increased prevalence of overweight/obesity among children has led to school district level policies to increase physical activity (PA) among elementary school students. Interventions are needed that increase activity levels without sacrificing time spent in academics.


We evaluated a policy implementation intervention for to increase in-school PA in elementary schools in Forsyth County, North Carolina, in a randomized study with a delayed intervention control group.


The study included third- through fifth-grade classrooms in eight elementary schools. Instant Recess® was used to introduce 10-minute PA breaks in classrooms on schedules determined by teachers. Direct observation was used to measure activity levels, other student behaviors, and teacher behaviors related to PA in the classrooms.


Twenty-eight visits to schools were made during the spring and fall semesters of 2009. At baseline 11% to 44% of intervention and control schools were engaged in classroom-based PA. PA increased from baseline to spring follow-up in intervention schools and was maintained the following fall. Control schools decreased PA from baseline to spring and increased PA once they began the intervention. Students in classrooms engaged in Instant Recess exhibited statistically significant increases in light (51%) and moderate-intensity (16%) PA and increases in time spent in on-task behavior (11%). Control schools experienced similar benefits after they began implementing Instant Recess.


Instant Recess is useful for increasing PA and improving behavior among elementary school children. Additional research may be needed to understand how to create policies supporting classroom activity breaks and how to assess policy adherence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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