Why Your Child Should Be Walking To School

walking to school

Image by: woodleywonderworks

The older generations love to point out to the younger ones how many hardships they faced as a child and how cushy kids today have it in comparison. It’s all, “back in my day, I had to walk 20 miles in the snow…” and so on. Ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but sometimes our folks like to make out like they grew up in the 1860s not the 1960s!

We know full well that they had cars back then, but according to statistics by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention our grandparents didn’t get them out every day for the school run.  Back then 90% of school children who lived within a mile of their school walked every single day, compared with a measly 31% of children who go on foot now. But why is this?

With childhood obesity reaching endemic levels in the western world, shouldn’t parents and schools be encouraging exercise in this way?

Here I discredit the excuses that many parents give for driving their kids to school on a regular basis. 

Excuse One: The Roads Aren’t Safe

Your folks were right when they told you that there weren’t so many cars on the road when they were young (we’ll give them that). Many parents worry that their children will not be safe crossing the road by themselves in the morning rush hour and that’s why they choose to drive to them every day, but this is also a poor excuse. Governments in the UK and America have invested money in schemes that set up safer routes for children to take to school, away from busy roads, in an effort to make the commute more child-friendly. In the UK it is believed over 300 schools now have a designated route mapped out for children, so parents don’t have to feel that their safety concerns have gone unnoticed.

Another question to make to parents who oppose their children walking to school is how are they ever going to learn how to manage the roads by themselves if they don’t get the chance to learn? You don’t want to bring up a child who is too scared to go out alone, or worse, too blasé. Surely the opportunity to hone road safety skills as a child, in the relatively safe setting of a designated school route, has got to be better than sending a clueless teenager into the world with no sense of caution or awareness for safety measures?

Excuse Two: Stranger Danger

Every parent’s worst nightmare is that their child may be abducted whilst they’re on their way to school one day and whilst this is a genuinely scary thought, the number of cases of child abduction every year is tiny. Breeding the culture of fear amongst our fellow parents’ leads to fewer children walking, making our pavements quieter and less reassuringly busy places to be, should -heaven forbid – the worst happens.

Excuse Three: I Don’t Have The Time

Many working parents say they barely have the time to get their kids up, dressed, fed and through the school gates before they have to be in for work. Scarce time in the mornings often means parents have to abandon the best laid plans for a leisurely stroll to school with their kids in favour of a piece of toast in the car and a hasty drop off at five to nine.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Why not try teaming up with other parents in your neighbourhood and arranging a system of ‘walking busses’, where one parent walks a group of kids to school on Monday and then another will do it on a Tuesday and so on. So at least if you can’t realistically take the time to walk every day, you can help out with the journeys you can make and your kids can get the full benefit of the increased amount of exercise.

May is national walking month in the UK and it features a ‘Walk to School Week’ which runs from Monday 20th-Friday 24th. So wherever you are in the world, why not try leaving the car at home for five days and see how it goes? Then donate all of the money you saved in petrol to a good cause. A great reason to put on your flat shoes indeed!

This event co-insides with many other health-awareness dates like Fruity Friday and Sports Relief. You can keep track of them all with this handy spring calendar.


What excuses do you give for not letting your child walk to school and are they valid? Share in the comments below.

Gavin Harvey

Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with a passion for travel. When he's not busy touring the world, he can be found in the gym or at home with his partner and two cats. You can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.

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