New Physical Activity Guidelines

Any amount of physical activity — even two minutes’ worth — can add up to huge benefits for your immediate and long-term health, according to the new edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Previously, the guidelines held that unless physical activity lasted 10 minutes or longer, it didn’t count toward a person’s recommended weekly activity goals.

The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines came out a decade ago, in 2008.  The new edition also highlights a broader array of short- and long-term benefits from physical activity, all based on scientific evidence.

The guidelines now recommend that children aged to 5 be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development — at least three hours a day. Kids aged 6 through 17 are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Pregnant and postpartum women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, while older adults should add balance training on top of their aerobic and muscle strengthening activities, the guidelines say.

“You need to get out and be active, whether you’re a child or an adult, whether you’re a pregnant woman, whether you have chronic disease — there’s no group that isn’t affected by these guidelines,” said Handberg, a member of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Committee.

Read more.

Are You Doing Recess Right? A New Tool Can Help

Despite the proven benefits, students probably aren’t getting the most out of recess, finds a new study that offers up a 17-point checklist to optimize the playground experience.

While there’s little doubt that children get exercise on the playground—recess accounts for up to 44 percent of their steps taken during the school day—schools often underestimate the social, emotional, and academic potential of playtime and fail to design recess to optimize those benefits.

To help educators understand what works on the playground—and what doesn’t—researchers visited nearly 500 elementary schools spanning 22 urban and metropolitan areas in the U.S. The researchers hoped to develop a tool that looked beyond simple questions of physical activity and playground equipment and toward a broader review of “safety, resources, student engagement, adult engagement, prosocial/antisocial behavior, and student empowerment on the playground.”

To learn more, including tips to maximize recess, read this article from Edutopia.


Map of Play from KaBoom

Kids have boundless energy — but when they keep it bottled up, it’s bound to explode at the dinner table. KaBoom can help! Map of Play, KaBoom’s free community-generated guide to parks and playgrounds, can help you find a PLAYce for kids with a simple tap of a button. There is no downloading involved — just go to on your phone the next time the kiddos get restless. You can also add playspaces and write reviews to help out other parents and caregivers in your community.

Celebrate Screen Free Week

screen free weekDuring Screen Free Week, May 2-8, children, families, and communities around the world will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Unplug from digital entertainment and spend your free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.
*except for work and school assignments

Visit Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood for more information

Featured Resources

Changing children’s screen habits can be a challenge for both kids and parents. That’s why we created “7 Parent-Tested Tips to Unplug and Play,” strategies for getting young kids to spend less time with screens from real parents who have done it and noticed a world of difference.
Want the children in your life to spend more time playing and less time with screens? CCFC’s great new handout is for you. Clear, concise, and evidence-based, our Healthy Kids in a Digital World brochure is packed with tips, facts, and screen-free activities—and it’s free!

Park Rx Day – April 24, 2016

Give yourself and your family the gift of good health by getting outdoors in a park near you on National Park Rx Day on April 24, 2016. Sunday, April 24, 2016 will be the first ever National Park Rx Day! It is a day celebrated across the United States to promote the growing movement of prescribing parks and nature to patients to improve human health. National Park Rx Day encourages everyone to see visits to parks and public lands as very important parts of their health. Last fall, the U.S. Surgeon General released a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities. National Park Rx Day builds on this call to action and provides citizens with parks and green spaces to promote public health.

Eight reasons to get outdoors and enjoy a walk in the park on Park Rx Day!

  1. Being in nature can improve your mood.
  2. Having access to parks can increase physical activity and combat obesity.
  3. Parks and their health benefits can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of who you are and where you come from.
  4. Contact with nature through parks improves all people’s physical, mental and spiritual health.
  5. Parks foster social connections which are vital to community cohesion and contribute to social well-being.
  6. For children, parks foster active play, which is associated with physical, cognitive and social benefits.
  7. For adolescents, parks improve mental and social health during what is often a challenging time of life.
  8. Park use is linked to physical and mental health benefits among adults, especially older adults.

Find Your Park for a healthier you! It might be closer than you think. You can also share your story so others can see what finding your park means to you.

Blog: Tips to Decrease Screen Time From a School Nurse

Charlotte Green - Nurse 9th Grade Center

Charlotte Deehr, RN- School Nurse, WPHS 9th Grade Center

Written by Charlotte Deehr, RN, WPHS 9th Grade Center School Nurse

Learn more about Charlotte

My childhood unfolded in the last few years before the internet even came into being. I remember being 14 and AOL was the new big thing, chatting with friends through the computer? Amazing! However, today’s kids have lived their entire lives with bleeps, buzzes and signals coming from many channels of information. Parents and teachers alike worry about the impact that constant multitasking is having on children’s developing brains.

Even at a young age children are drawn to screens and smart phones. My own 2 month old will turn his head to see the T.V if he can, after all the noise, pictures and colors must be terribly interesting to him. So how do we ensure our kids don’t grow up to be screen-a-holics when there is clearly such a pull? And for parents, who themselves have plugged in. How do we reconnect and unplug in a way that’s fun, and functional? After all, we can’t ask our children to unplug when we ourselves can’t.

This is not just some thought, idea, or inane theory about how to reconnect with your kids and support their h45044ealthy development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 2 and limited screen time for kids over two. Their website claims that the average amount of screen time for today’s children is 7 HOURS per DAY. Whoa. That’s more than half of a typical child’s waking hours in a day! There is an increasing body of research that shows that excessive screen time can lead to attention problems, social delays, and an increase in violent behavior. Interaction with a live human being is clearly what human babies and young children need more than anything else. In fact, babies deprived of human contact die, even if they’re provided with adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Freedom to explore their world in a physical and sensory way is also crucial to healthy development. So, how can we help kids avoid media when screens are so prevalent and so unbelievably addictive? I’m glad you asked.


If you want your child to unplug, then you need to unplug. Yes it will be hard not to reach for the phone to check. Put it on silent, then you won’t hear the ding of the alerts, sit down, and enjoy dinner. Without the background noise. Show your children how to connect on a personal level not just digital.


Make them no screen time play dates. Get outside, explore, or head to a local museum/park etc. This not only gets them away from screens it also challenges them to socialize, interact and get creative.


Books, games, puzzles, crafts, any other diversional activities. If your child isn’t getting into it right away try playing WITH them. Soon they will be immersed and you may be able to return to what you were doing.


Get some chalk and decorate the driveway, make some fun crafts to hang around the house for various holidays *even silly ones like national dog day or talk like a pirate day.* This is where Pinterest comes in handy. And have the kids pitch in to help clean up afterwards, don’t forget to have fun yourself.


A little bit of roughhousing does everyone some good. Have some play time with your children, remember to let them win!


No one likes yard work, unless it’s the fun kind. Try planting a small garden, or challenging your kids to a contest of who can rake leaves the quickest (and throw in a prize if you like, something as simple as an ice cream cone, or no dish duty for the winner.)


It doesn’t matter the age, any child can get transported away to another world in the form of a good story. Get your kids involved by alternating who reads, and you can even do voices for characters if you are feeling spunky. Pretty soon your child will be begging for their daily chapter.


In a society inundated by technology and digital relationships we need to be mindful to take a moment to unplug, reconnect with ourselves and our fellow humans.

WPHF Consortium Elementary Schools to Receive Recess Carts

hula hoop recess Background

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines recess as “regularly scheduled periods within the elementary school day for unstructured physical activity and play.” Research documents the benefits of recess for a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being. Yet, recent surveys and studies have indicated a national trend toward reducing recess to accommodate additional time for academic subjects in addition to its withdrawal for punitive or behavioral reasons.

Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.  After recess, for children, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.

Although not all children play vigorously at recess, it does provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing and to practice movement and motor skills. Importantly, recess affords young children free activity for the sheer joy of it. Even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home and helps the child achieve the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, which can help lower risk of obesity.  To maximize the benefits of recess, the AAP recommends 20 minutes of daily recess for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

In general, recess has been fading from Florida’s public schools for the past decade, as educators looked to squeeze more academic time into the school day, often because of state rules. In a January 2015 poll of Orange County Public Schools’ (OCPS) 123 elementary schools, 100 (81%) of elementary schools offer some form of recess (all Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) consortium elementary schools offer recess).   This concerns some parents and as a result, parents are leading the efforts to incorporate 20 minutes of daily recess into all OCPS schools.  Their activities brought before the OCPS School Board include:

October 2014: Petition for 20 minutes of daily recess for all K-5 OCPS students with 300+ signatures presented to Orange County School Board.

January 2015: 50+ parents and students join together at School Board meeting to request district wide policy.  OCPS School Board asked Area Superintendents to follow-up with all elementary school principals to work recess physical activity into their schedules starting fall 2015.

June 2015: Recess resolution passed by School Board (Click here for resolution)

“Encourages elementary schools to allow for approximately 20 minutes of recess time at least on days when students are not scheduled for physical education; allowing teachers to utilize their discretion in scheduling recess based upon the needs of their students, and their expertise.”

In July 2015, WPHF discussed recess with consortium school principals during a scheduled consortium principals’ meeting.  The following challenges were indicated in regards to meeting the recess resolution suggestion of 20 minutes of daily recess:

  • Space
  • Equipment
  • Scheduling
  • Weather
  • Conflict Resolution

Principals indicated recess equipment as their top request to address these challenges.


Kids Recess CartsIn order to address the concerns of the consortium elementary principals while maximizing recess time, the WPHF’s Children and Youth Work Group has approved a grant of up to $38,000 to provide recess carts with non-elimination equipment to all WPHF consortium elementary schools.  Recess carts are a best practice for the Florida Department of Education’s Office (FL DOE) of Healthy Schools and have been successfully piloted in Audubon Park and Dommerich Elementary schools with Fuel Up to Play 60 funding.  Providing recess carts to classroom teachers does the following:

  • Maximizes recess time by eliminating the need for classroom teachers to locate equipment
  • Increases student participation by promoting non-elimination games and activities
  • Increases the life of the equipment through classroom ownership
  • Decreases scheduling, overcrowding, and weather related concerns by allowing for use of non-traditional space for recess
  • Decreases recess conflict by offering numerous activities and non-elimination games
  • Allows for customization and personalization for class needs based on variety of equipment and resources provided.

The recess carts will be supplied with equipment based on the results of the FL DOE’s recess kit pilot through the YMCA’s Partnership for Healthier Communities.  Wagons will be provided to house the equipment for easy transportation of the items throughout the elementary school campuses. In order to reach all 270 consortium elementary classrooms in a cost-effective method, 54 recess carts will be purchased with each recess cart serving four to six classrooms.  Recess carts will also be specific to lower elementary grades (K-2) and upper elementary grades (3-5).

Consortium Healthy School Team Leaders will be provided training on the equipment in the recess carts and asked to then train their staff during an all-staff meeting on the effective use of the carts.  Each cart will also contain a binder, with suggested non-elimination games and additional methods to utilize the cart’s equipment.

Technical assistance will be available throughout the year to help teachers with any questions they may have as they utilize their school’s recess carts.  In May of 2016, teachers will be asked to complete a short survey to provide feedback and data regarding the benefits and lessons learned in regards to the utilization of the recess carts.

Recess Cart Objectives:

  • Increase opportunities for students to get physical activity without sacrificing instructional time.
  • Provide teachers with a tool to maximize recess time while minimizing conflict
  • Help schools meet the OCPS resolution suggestion of 20 minutes of daily recess
  • Decrease scheduling concerns by allowing for the utilization of unconventional recess space for recess (classroom, media center, hallways, etc.)
  • Improve children’s performance in the classroom and on standardized end-of-grade tests.
  • Increase classroom teacher knowledge of and participation in non-elimination games

Recess carts will be delivered to WPHF consortium elementary schools this fall.  Make sure to ask your child about the recess carts at their school!

Orange County Public Schools Approves Recess Resolution

recess slideIf your child attends an Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) elementary school, recess may look different this school year.

On June 23, the OCPS School Board unanimously passed a resolution encouraging 20 minutes of daily recess for all OCPS elementary schools.  The resolution does not mandate recess, instead, it leaves the decision up to teachers and administration about whether or not to provide recess. However, it does recommend 20 minutes of daily recess, at least on days when students do not have a physical education class.

The approval of the recess resolution is an excellent example of the power of a parent’s voice.  Last year, parents who were upset abut the lack of recess in OCPS elementary schools joined together to launch a recess petition drive. Through a successful social media campaign, education, and presentations to the school board, all OCPS elementary students will now have increased opportunities for unstructured play through recess.

The Center for Disease Control provides the following information on recess in “Strategies for Supporting Recess in Elementary Schools” (May 2014). Click here to reference this CDC document.

Recess provides students with a needed break from their structured school day. It can improve children’s physical, social, and emotional well-being, and enhance learning. Recess helps children meet the goal of 60 minutes of physical activity each day, as recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services. National organizations (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend that districts provide at least 20 minutes of daily recess for all students in elementary schools.

OCPS offers this webpage with five facts about recess in OCPS elementary schools.

Congratulations to the OCPS for approving this resolution.  Recess can play an important role in building healthy kids; healthy kids make better students and better students make healthy communities.