Confined to an office cube? Working overtime? Constantly on call and online? Multitasking while trying to multitask? It’s time to reclaim playtime and escape to the outdoors for a much-needed break. KEEN Footwear officially proclaims “Recess is Back.”
At a time when the world is moving further into the digital age, people are becoming more disconnected from the outdoors, and the nation is experiencing rapidly increasing rates of obesity, America’s Great Outdoors Initiative has shared some positive news. This initiative, which was launched by President Obama to develop a 21st-century conservation and recreation agenda, found that access to the outdoors can help foster mental and physical health, reduce stress and reverse the obesity epidemic.
In light of this encouraging finding, KEEN—the eight-year-old manufacturer of hybrid footwear, socks and bags—asked “Can a brand be a solution for today’s hectic world?” Their answer was “Yes!” To that end, the young brand is launching an initiative to improve the health of individuals by enabling them to take daily outdoor “recess” breaks every day of the week.
“We want to liberate the masses from indoors and make recess as common as casual Friday,” said James Curleigh, CEO and chief recess officer of KEEN. “In the time when screens are off and phones are silenced, people are happier. If we start small, with just 15 minutes a day, the world may become a better place one recess at a time.”
Research Reveals Benefits of Recess
The benefits of physical activity are numerous and well-documented (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html). National organizations such as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; the National Recreation and Park Association; and the Partnership for a Healthier America are active partners in the campaign for physical activity to help improve health.
Recent studies in the work place conducted by Toni Yancey, author of Instant Recess and co-director of the Center for Health Equity and professor of health services at UCLA and her colleagues show that taking short activity breaks during the workday, the time KEEN refers to as recess, is great for an individual’s health and well-being. 1,2
“Short bouts of physical activity can lead to an entire range of health benefits from lifting mood, helping prevent or control depression, to improving productivity, partly through changes to our cognitive processing,” Yancey said. “It helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It helps to control our weight. Really, there almost nothing that it doesn’t improve.”
According to a recent review, daily physical activity accumulated in short intervals may be more feasible and appealing to the relatively sedentary population than longer periods of activity. Integrating short durations of exercise into the workday produces improvements in outcomes related to work performance and clinical disease outcomes.3
Should these short periods of activity be indoors or outdoors? Research points toward the door. A study recently published in the review Environmental Science & Technology (March, 2011) states, that being active in natural environments rather than indoors was associated with higher levels of revitalization and positive engagement.4
Nicolaas P. Pronk PhD, president of the International Association for Worksite Health Promotion, was asked to provide his recommendations for worksite for the National Physical Activity Plan.5 Pronk’s recommendations state that multi-component worksite programs that include or promote physical activity generate positive improvements in health, reduce missed days of work and may generate a higher financial return.
KEEN has embraced this recommendation and substantiating research and is promoting a two-pronged approach to bring recess back. The first avenue will be to provide a set of tools that inspire and enable individuals to get outside daily. The second includes outreach to companies, encouraging them to embrace and instate recess for their employees.
Bringing the Movement to the Masses
Starting close to home in Portland, Oregon, KEEN has reworked its workplace to put the recess theory to the test. “At the KEEN headquarters, we’ve created an open door policy, meaning we open the doors and encourage everyone to get outside for a 15-minute break,” said Kate Lee, global director of human resources at KEEN.
The company is creating a Recess Center to encourage play during the day which includes a recess tracker to show time in minutes, hours, days and months spent at recess, a detailed map of nearby recess spots, a place to let employees share their tips for taking recess and favorite recess activities, and recess items such as Frisbees, yoga mats, and bikes. There will be a Recess Team to rally other employees to play, and managers will be equipped with whistles and recess passes to encourage employees to get outside.
This spring, KEEN and its Recess Team are approaching other companies to bring recess back. Come summer, KEEN will introduce the Recess Revolution to cities around the U.S., including the San Francisco Bay Area, Minneapolis, Denver, and Washington D.C., through a series of events and promotions. The summer’s recess activities include taking over sidewalks in Denver for a chalk art exhibitions and installing adult-friendly tire swings throughout Minneapolis.
To help individuals get outside and enjoy recess, KEEN offers an online toolkit complete with recess passes, screen savers and downloadable door hangers promoting recess breaks. In partnership with Parents magazine, the brand is releasing a smart phone app that locates the closest park. In addition, KEEN will use social media channels to host photo contests and promotions to allow people to share recess adventures, as well as offering the chance to win the ultimate recess give-a-way outfitting a family with recess ready shoes, bags and socks for every season.
“We are an eight-year-old company that wants everyone to experience the freedom they felt as an eight-year-old at recess,” said Phyllis Grove, VP of marketing for KEEN. “We want to enable people to bring more healthy habits, work-life balance and outdoor fun into their lives through this movement to reinstate recess. We invite you to put on your KEENs, get outside and reclaim play. Recess is back!”