Contributed by Laura Thomason, MPH, Safe Routes to School Coordinator
Ever feel like your day consists of too much time spent in the car chauffeuring the kids from school to baseball practice and dance class and karate lessons and friends’ houses and the list goes on? Somedays it feels like we live in our car! But, now that school is back in session, it’s the perfect time to reflect on daily routines. Lots of families are changing things up by walking or biking or scooting to school. And you can too by joining our local Safe Routes to School (SRTS) movement.
SRTS works with parents, school administrators and communities to improve and increase opportunities for kids to bike or walk to school safely. Here are five reasons to get up, and get your kids active in the mornings (and if you’re always pressed for time to exercise like I am, it can benefit you too):
1. Healthier, stronger kids.
Being active on the way to school is a convenient way to add exercise to your child’s (and your) day. With childhood obesity on the rise, the walk to school represents a fun opportunity to build physical activity into a child’s day. It’s recommended that children get 60 minutes of aerobic activity per day. Currently, only about 21 percent of children ages 6 to 19 meet those guidelines.Walking or riding to school also helps develop life-long physical activity habits.
2. Better focus for learning in the classroom.
Students who are active on the way to school may focus better once they arrive. In one study, children who walked for 20 minutes scored better on a test than those who had been sitting before the test. Building physical activity into the day (and getting those wiggles out before school) can have tremendous academic benefits long-term.
3. Building community.
If you don’t have a schedule that allows you to accompany your child to school, another parent in your community might. SRTS helps bring communities together by organizing community-led initiatives like a walking school bus or a bike train (a group of kids and volunteers who walk/ride together as a group, stopping at specific points along the way). This benefits parents too – meeting your neighbors helps generate a connection to your community.
4. Breathe easier.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent more than one afternoon idling in the carpool line. Around here, the carpool line forms early and extends far, even into the middle of a busy road. Children spend most of their time at school, so this simple reduction in emissions can make a big difference in their air quality. Exposure to traffic pollution as a child is linked to asthma, lung deficits, and greater risk of heart problems in adulthood.
5. Build skills and independence.
Does your child have a bike collecting dust in the garage? Imagine how excited they would be if they could ride with you to school! If your child doesn’t yet know how to ride, consider attending a FREE Learn to Ride event. What might seem like a quick ride to school is actually teaching the skills they need to safely navigate the neighborhood. Many parents also enjoy the independence walking or biking can provide their older children.