Benefits of Walking to School

Why Walk?

It’s fun! Remember the thrill of riding a bike for the first time or walking to school that first day?

There’s a feeling of joy and independence —a sense of adventure—that doesn’t fade. When walking or biking, parents and children get to appreciate things they don’t notice while driving—listening to the sounds of the neighborhood, seeing friends and neighbors and feeling connected with their community. Parents, children and friends can enjoy one another’s company without the usual distractions.

walking to school

What are the biggest misconceptions about walking to school?

To be more ‘protective,’ parents often think it is safer to drive their children to school rather than letting them walk. In reality, evidence shows that children are more likely to be harmed in a car accident compared to walking to school.

What are the physical benefits of walking to school?

Walking and bicycling to school enables children to incorporate the regular physical activity they need each day while also forming healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Regular physical activity helps children build strong bones, muscles and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity. In contrast, insufficient physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.

What are the mental health benefits of walking to school?

Children who walk to school have been found to have higher academic performance in terms of attention/alertness, verbal, numeric, and reasoning abilities; higher degree of pleasantness and lower levels of stress during the school day; and higher levels of happiness, excitement and relaxation on the journey to school. Walking to school can further foster personal growth by developing a sense of independent decision making, emotional bonds with peers and the natural environment, and road and traffic safety skills.

Is there an ideal distance children should walk to reap the benefits? Or is there a distance that is too far?

Research has shown that living greater than 1 mile  from school was deemed ‘too far to walk.’ However, it's important to remember that any minute you walk is contributing to the daily guidelines for physical activity in children (i.e., 60 minutes). When walking to and from school, you can accumulate between 15-45 minutes of your daily physical activity.

What are some of the real barriers to parents allowing their children to walk to school?

Among the families who live within a ‘walkable’ distance from school, parents typically identify safety and time issues as main barriers. Parents should let their children walk with friends. It is also advised making small changes to their schedules like heading to bed and waking up a bit earlier than usual to make time for this very important part of their days.

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