According to Safe Routes to School, “In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school, with approximately 87% of children living within one mile of school walking or bicycling." Fast forward four decades and things have changed. Although the National Household Travel Survey notes that most children still live within an easy two miles of their school, fewer than 15% of all kids now walk or bike to school. In surveys, a full three-quarters of parents say they drive their children to school in a private vehicle. Why the switch? Surveys and research note that parents are skittish about "stranger danger," auto accidents and other safety issues. Some parents just don't want to argue. For example, when the Bellevue School District asked parents why they'd drive a kid just a few blocks to school, one parent said, "You have to pick your battles. I have one child who would love to walk to school everyday and I have another kid who doesn't like the cold. She doesn't want to bundle up. It's just easier to have that routine." A full 75% of parents in another survey said that they drive their kids less than 2 miles to school for the sake of "convenience." Yikes. Here's what we think - there are countless excellent reasons to make your kids walk to school. Keep reading to see why.
Little girl looking through window – Shutterstock Image
To Grow Healthy Kids
Childhood obesity rates are out of control and have more than tripled in the past 30 years. Though some believe 30% is far too low an estimate and it doesn’t include simply overweight kids. All in all, there are plenty of overweight kids around. Surveys show that parents know about childhood obesity but most don’t believe it affects their own family. In fact, research shows that 80%+ of parents of overweight kids think their kids are “perfectly healthy.” First, know that weight denial doesn’t equal truth or health. Excess weight, especially excess belly fat is a serious health issue for kids. Experts agree that the childhood obesity epidemic is caused by multiple factors, but a key factor is that kids today lack physical activity. In many cases, some kids have a total lack of physical activity in their world. Not cool. A lack of physical activity and excess childhood weight are linked to poor motor coordination, physical brain changes and poor cognitive skills, and an increased risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, among other things.
Making your kid walk to school is the perfect way to work more exercise into your child’s day and get your kid used to being more active. It’s a small step yes, but all those small healthy steps you take add up and your kid will benefit. Seriously, don’t let your kid’s only view of the outdoors be from behind glass. That’s not healthy.