In my case, I know I’ll never forget the “flying dime” lunchtime incident. I’ll never forget all the days playing basketball or touch football at recess. And of course, there was the time I sat under the playground structure as one of my third grade classmates described part of the movie Striptease.
That was a weird day.
The point is that lunch and recess provided many of us with the long-lasting memories that classroom time simply couldn’t offer. Those times were the most fun for most of us.
The cardinal sin in those days was to get in trouble and have to spend lunch or recess away from friends. The allure of going outside to play, and the inevitable ribbing that came from getting in trouble, was just as much of an incentive to behave as the teacher telling your parents that you got in trouble.
So despite the boredom that reading or math or social studies might have brought, we kept working. Before recess, the incentive was “just a couple more classes until recess!” After recess, the incentive was equal parts “just a few more classes until I go home!” and having drained all the nervous energy of the morning work at recess.
Of course, those days largely disappeared in high school, came back somewhat during college (depending on your schedule), and completely disappeared once you entered the professional workforce.
After all, playtime is for kids, right?
…not so much.
Australian researchers have documented the improved health metrics of workers who break up their sedentary work time with physical activity. It didn’t matter how much sedentary time the workers had. It didn’t matter how much moderate-to-vigorous activity they had. The average intensity of the breaks didn’t matter.
The more breaks in sedentary time they had, the better they scored on these health indicators:
- Waist circumference
- Body mass index
- Triglyceride levels
- 2-hour fasting glucose (an indicator of diabetes risk)
These breaks can be as simple as getting up from the desk and doing a few stretches every hour. It’s nothing major, and is something simple that your workplace can implement to give everyone’s bodies and minds a quick respite from being hunched at the computer all day.
Think of these breaks as “mini-recesses.” They can be done with the entire office/department. At the very least, it’ll break up the tedium of the day. At best, it’ll give people a couple minutes to play around together (which has a benefit all its own) and provide a constant reminder of the benefits of a healthy workplace.
Of course, you could go the extra mile and also integrate a specific block of time during the day for “recess” — a half hour or so. And no, eating lunch doesn’t count.
If you doubt the utility of play as adults, watch Stuart Brown’s talk on the importance of play for adults. It’s a lot more important than you think.
Is there anything that your workplace has done to encourage “recess” time?