This week (Monday, 16th – Friday, 20th May) is Walk to School Week, where schools encourage pupils to walk rather than take the car or public transport where possible to not only support a greener, healthier environment but to enjoy the benefits of regularly walking to school.
The initiative, which is being run across both Ireland and the UK, is not just beneficial to the environment however, as walking is known to help boost your children's happiness.
In fact, according to research conducted by Living Streets with 1,500 UK parents, more than half of those who took part in the research found that they noticed an improvement in their child’s mood and behaviour after they’ve done physical activity.
Sadly, just 21% of boys and 16% of girls get the recommended daily amount of physical exercise (60 minutes) and a third of children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.
It doesn't have to be like this though. According to the study, walking is one of the easiest and most accessible ways of maintaining a healthy weight and reducing stress levels, and doesn't cost a thing.
But that's not all it does; here are three more reasons you should walk to school at least once or twice a week, if possible.
1. Walking to school has been shown to improve children’s concentration
2. It helps them feel more alert and achieve better grades than those who are driven
3. Their mood is greatly improved and you get to spend more time with them
Talking about the Walk to School Week campaign, Joe, Chief Executive at Living Streets, says: “Not only are we experiencing a child obesity crisis, we’re also facing a rise in mental health and wellbeing problems. We know that keeping active is a major part of the solution.
“We must prioritise ways of encouraging physical activity if we want today’s children to become healthy adults. The walk to school is a free, easy and accessible way for parents and their children to achieve this. Sadly, just 46 per cent of primary school children walk to school compared to 70 per cent of their parents’ generation. We must reverse this decline.”
While over half of those parents who said they would like their children to walk to school, congestion and unsafe driving outside the school gates overwhelmingly deter them.
A huge percentage said that vehicles driving too quickly were their greatest worry when it came to the school run and a third said overcrowding and unsafe parking also put them off.
Aggression was also a factor with 20% experiencing it either from other parents or local residents.
Irvin continues: “Something needs to change so that more children and parents feel safe walking to school. This is one sure way of increasing the amount of exercise youngsters are getting and is vitally important if we want to improve their health, and cut congestion and pollution.”
Walk to School Week also plays host to ‘Happy Shoesday’ on Tuesday, 17th May. Children and staff at schools around the country will be wearing the shoes which make them the happiest, each donating £1 to Living Streets. The money raised will go to the charity’s work with schools and local communities, and their campaign work to make UK streets safer for everyone.
Robert Goodwill, Minister for Transport said: “The walk to school is a fantastic time for children to get part of the recommended daily physical activity, see nature and spend time with a parent or family member. I thoroughly enjoyed walking to school as a child and would like to see more done to make the walk to school safe and attractive to children and their families.”
If walking to school is not an option due to work commitments or living to far away, you can always park the car a little further away or get off the bus a stop or two earlier.