It’s not always possible to walk to school if you live a fair distance away, but one thing I’ve noticed from chatting to other mums is that a lot of folks do “the school run” in the car, even if the nursery or school is under a mile away. In fact, according to Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, one in four cars on the roads during peak times is on the school run and the amount of people walking to school has dropped from 70% to under 50% in the last generation.
15 Benefits of Walking to School
There are some serious benefits to walking with our children and one of the simplest ways to have a daily walk is to walk to school.
- It raises activity levels in a natural way.
- It normalizes regular, daily walking as part of a healthy lifestyle and creates healthy habits.
- It improves mental health.
- It can ease traffic congestion, so those who need to drive can get where they’re going easier.
- It reduces air pollution and can have serious benefits for the environment.
- It reduces fuel consumption, which has a knock on effect for the environment too.
- It strengthens friendships and communities, as people can walk together.
- Exercise has been shown to calm children down and help concentration before a day of schoolwork. Walking to school can increase grades!
- It teaches road safety and awareness.
- It helps children to be more aware of their surroundings and notice things they wouldn’t otherwise – like trees, birds or fun buildings.
- It gives you time to chat to your children as you walk.
- Children who skip, hop, jump and play games whilst walking increase their balance, co-ordination and physical confidence, without even realizing it!
- It improves congestion at school gates, which can be a dangerous traffic situation for children.
- It’s the most cost effective way for you to travel.
- It teaches kids how to dress warmly in the winter and wear waterproofs in the rain.
Maybe you won’t always walk to school. Sometimes the weather is terrible or we’re running late and hopping in the car fits in best with our busy lives – but even walking to school a few times a week could have big improvements. It’s little ways like this that families can make changes that not only affect their physical and mental health, but can have big knock on effects to the environment, just like making switches to cut down on plastic usage and getting in touch with local milkman.
That’s what I want to be a champion of – small things we can all do that really can change the world.
If your school is too far away, how about driving half way and walking some of the way in? You really can embrace the theme of every little helps here. Even walking the last 10 or 15 minutes will have health and environmental benefits.
William isn’t in school yet, but we do go to playgrounds and a local playgroup. It’s less than a 20 minute walk, yet often, we drive. I’m promising to cut that down as much as possible, and as long as the weather allows, we’re going to start walking. Not just in May for one week, but every day that we can in 2018. I want my son to be confident and in touch with the outdoor world and weather even though we live in the center of a busy city.
If you feel like your city isn’t easily walkable – especially with young children – it might be worth stopping and thinking why. Are the pavements not wide enough? Is the walking condition too poor for little feet or pushchairs? Do you feel that the roads aren’t safe? Are there enough pedestrian and zebra crossings? How’s the lighting for walking in the dark mornings and evenings? You could take part in the #walkingcities campaign and forward information to your local council to try and help improve pedestrian access within your city. You can get downloadable campaign calls and a template letter to send to your local newspaper editor to start raising awareness and discussing the issue. 30% of parents think that their city is unsafe for children walking to school and that’s shocking. There are ongoing campaigns for Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff, the West Midlands, London and Oxford Street.
May is also National Walking Month and as part of Living Street’s #WalkThisMay Campaign (I love that name!) you can sign a petition to pledge to walk to school every day between 21st – 25th May. I’ve signed it!
This post wasn’t endorsed or discussed with Living Streets, I just happened across some social media promotion and realized how much the idea of encouraging other mums and dads to walk to school resonated with me. It has so many advantages, both social, physical, mental and environmental, that I really wanted to share. Please share this post on social media to help raise awareness, and I hope you’ll be walking to school, the playground or playgroup in May, and hopefully beyond!