A study out of Laurentian University is looking at the health effects of a balanced school schedule in place across Ontario.
The schedule features two lunch breaks a day, along with two longer recesses. It was implemented about 10 years ago and was designed to help children focus all day long.
The schedule replaces the more traditional schedule that consisted of two recesses of about 15 minutes, and an hour or so for lunch.
'The plan behind it was to maximize learning.' —Laurentian University professor Sandra Dorman
Laurentian University professor Sandra Dorman said 20-minute recesses gives elementary students more time to play sports.
But the study she helped produce shows children actually get slightly less exercise in the new balanced schedule.
"The plan behind it was to maximize learning," said Dorman."They never asked the question around how was it going to impact physical activity in the students and how was it going to impact nutrition."
The study shows students in the traditional system took about 7,000 steps a day when measured with a pedometer — that's 700 more than the balanced schedule. The study also tracked the calories students consumed each day, in both schedules.
"There was a difference, but the difference worked out to be about five extra minutes of activity using the traditional school day, so it's not overwhelmingly huge," said Dorman.
"And none of the kids on either schedule were achieving the 60 minutes of exercise a day that's recommended."
'The day goes fast'
In terms of calories and food, the nutritional value of lunches has remained the same according to Dorman, but parents tended to pack two drinks, which were the sugary variety, like juice boxes.
Regardless of the schedule, Dorman encourages parents to pack fewer desserts, and opt for water instead of the sugary drinks.
That information has been passed on to the school boards and the Sudbury and District Health Unit.
Rainbow District School board superintendent Sharon Speirs said she likes the balanced schedule.
She said the balanced schedule lets students eat when they are typically hungry and better focus on class work.
"The day goes fast ... It’s kind of three main focuses through the day and then you're done."
The balanced school schedule has been adopted in most of the province.
The Laurentian studies were conducted in 2011.