Playworks at the playground

Research has shown that children who engage in at least moderate physical activity during breaks demonstrate both health and academic benefits. Studies also note that boys engage in higher physical activities during breaks than girls.

A study by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) examined the effects of introducing Playworks, a structured-play programme, on girls’ activity levels at breaks. The Playworks programme uses a coach to introduce games and equipment and organise activities during breaks and encourage girls to be less sedentary.

Twenty-nine schools in six US cities were randomly assigned to receive Playworks (n=17) or no intervention (n=12) during the 2010-11 or 2011-2012 school years. Schools were randomly assigned within blocks matched by size, grade levels, ethnicity, and free-lunch count. A total of 1,573 fourth and fifth grade (Years 5 and 6) students participated, 823 girls and 750 boys. After one year of each treatment group’s exposure to Playworks, all experimental and control students wore accelerometers to measure physical activity levels for 10 minutes each break during a one-week period in each school.

Results yielded significant increases for the Playworks groups in girls’ activity levels as compared to the control group, but no significant increases for boys. The authors discuss that modifying the programme to increase boys’ activity would be beneficial.

An earlier randomised study of Playworks by MPR showed positive effects of the programme in reducing bullying, increasing social climate and feelings of school safety, and students’ readiness to learn.

Source: The impact of Playworks on boys’ and girls’ physical activity during recess (2015), Mathematica Policy Research

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