According to Murray, in most schools, recess lasts 15 to 20 minutes either before or after lunch. There are no data on the optimal length of recess, he said.
"All we can say is there needs to be enough time for the child to decompress," Murray said.
The report appears in the January issue of Pediatrics.
According to the group's statement, recess offers children mental, physical, emotional and social benefits.
The statement goes on to say that regular physical education is also important and recess is not a substitute for it. The authors see the free, unstructured playtime that recess offers as essential to children's overall health.
Moreover, they say withholding recess should not be a form of punishment. Recess, they added, is an important part of child development and provides social interaction that children may not get during class time.
"Schools ought to examine other discipline methods, and look for ways to provide safe and properly supervised recess for all children," Ramstetter said. "Whether it's spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play or activity."
One expert agreed that recess is an important part of a child's school experience and should be valued.
"We have been discussing the issue of unstructured play in schools for a long time," said Dr. Gloria Riefkohl, a pediatrician at Miami Children's Hospital.
Since No Child Left Behind was started, a lot of schools have cut or eliminated recess to add classroom time, she said.
"It is important that kids have recess," Riefkohl said. "Recess allows kids to get involved with other children that are not in their classroom and allows them to decompress."
Time spent interacting in unstructured play helps children develop important social skills, Riefkohl said. "We have to find time for children to be children."
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