Comparing Physical Activity Behavior of Children During School Between Balanced and Traditional School Day Schedules

School scheduled breaks aren’t something we typically give much thought to. Take the traditional school day (TSD) of two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch break, the schedule many of which grew up with and may have a hard time imagining otherwise. Though it seems integral in the raising of children, what if there were a better way to go about it? This is precisely the question this new study aims to answer.

An alternative to the TSD recently explored is the balanced school day (BSD), which schedules breaks into two blocks of forty minutes each. This has the dual benefit, claim those advocating for the model, both of longer breaks to allow for more rigorous physical activity, and longer periods of uninterrupted study to allow for more intense learning.

This model is not an altogether new idea, but thus far its benefits have been largely assumed with no empirical evidence to support it. This study, conducted by Andrew F. Clark, Piotr Wilk, and Jason A. Gilliland, and which involved 932 students between the ages of ten and thirteen, aimed to amend this. The Peel District School Board was the first to implement the model, and therefore a natural target for study. Information about the students was collected through the Healthy Neighbourhood Survey for Youth, and comparisons were drawn between the health habits of TSD students and BSD students of the same age and sex.

Findings were widely inconclusive, with the largest finding being that of adolescent females, for which the BSD model was found to make a profound difference in promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles. Though further studies are necessary, given the lack of any negative correlation findings for the BSD and only positive findings for adolescent females, it’s no wonder many schools throughout the province are beginning to find this model appealing.

Keywords: balanced school day schedule, students, health, physical activity, nutrition

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