Recently someone became upset with me when I called a 40 minute period when our high school students were allowed free time to be “recess”. In today’s high stakes testing, high accountability, and highly competitive environment we could use more recess.
Remember when recess was the highlight of your day? We would play games, catch up with friends, and get out our nervous energy to return to class with a renewed demeanor to learn. Who misses that in their daily routine? I know I do.
A study at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute has shown that productivity goes up with exercise, especially in the middle of the day. But where is the motivation? Not many people want to run on a treadmill. It's boring. Introducing games however, taps into our playful and competitive spirit. How great would it be to play a game with friends; or for some of us, to throw a dodgeball at a co-worker?
The monotony of our day must be broken. Those problems we were agonizing over before lunch will often be easily solved after stepping away from them for a while and thinking about something else. Or taking some time to breathe and think about nothing at all.
When you think about your day as a whole, taking a break is not wasted time. If getting out helps you to be more efficient during the times when you're working then you become more productive. Spending double the time working and getting half as much done equals less productivity.
This of course would make people happier. The same Stockholm study showed that a happy worker is a productive worker. A happier worker is also there more often and spending less company money on doctor appointments and mental health days. It's not just about the bottom line. It's about living happier and more enjoyable working lives.
Let’s bring recess beyond grade schools. We've struck a chord with elementary students. Let’s learn from them and play!
Physical Education Teacher, Strength Coach, Owner of Emerge Athletics
Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish). "Exercise at work boosts productivity, Swedish researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906121011.htm>.
Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, Henna Hasson. Employee Self-rated Productivity and Objective Organizational Production Levels. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011; 53 (8): 838 DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31822589c2
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