Primary school children who do not walk to school are missing out on a range of social, physical and practical benefits that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations took for granted, says Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. Released to celebrate the start of International Walk to School Month, a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity asked three generations* what they enjoyed about walking to school.
It found that children aged 8 to 11 who normally walk to school enjoyed meeting their friends on the way and spending time with family the most, with 53 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.
The worrying news is that with just 46 per cent of primary-aged children now walking to school (National Travel Survey 2014), lots of children are missing out on this valuable time with loved ones. This figure is in vast contrast to the 70 per cent of people their parents’ age, who used to walk.
For these older generations who normally walked to school the poll revealed that meeting their friends on the way was also what they enjoyed the most (60 per cent adults aged 30-49, 63 per cent adults aged 50-75).
When it came to the benefits of walking to school all three generations recognised that it was good exercise and good for their health, but interestingly the largest number of those who recognised this as most important were the youngest generation, with a massive 83 per cent of children aged 8-11 putting it first compared with 67 per cent of adults aged 30-49 and 65 per cent of 50-75 year olds. Also high on the list was independence (36 per cent and 61 per cent respectively) and road awareness (51 per cent and 65 per cent respectively).
Emily Humphreys, Director of Policy and Communications, Living Streets said:
“It is clear that the simple act of walking to school brings a host of benefits, including spending quality time with parents, grandparents and friends. This free, sustainable and healthy activity also saves parents money and reduces car emissions, thereby protecting children further. What better way to start the day than with precious family time?”
With three quarters of children not doing enough physical activity** we need to prioritise the walk to school before the inactive children of today become the unhealthy adults of the future.
Recognising the wide-ranging benefits that walking to school brings, the Government has set a target for getting 55 per cent of children walking to school by 2025 but Living Streets is concerned that if funds are not committed, this target cannot be reached.
The benefits of walking to school haven’t changed but the number of children walking has. Without action to halt and reverse the decline, the number walking to school will inevitably continue to fall. While the government’s target is very welcome, it must dedicate the funds required to achieve this commitment. We must invest in our children and help them reap the lifelong physical, social, mental and practical benefits that walking brings.”
Comments from children about what they enjoy about walking to school:
“I feel independent”
“It’s good for me, I like walking with my mum”
“My mum can cuddle me”
“I like getting fresh air and exercise”
“I get to admire the view and see interesting stuff”
“It makes me feel more grown up”
* YouGov polled children aged 8-11 and adults aged 30-49 and 50-75.
** British Heart Foundation/Diabetes UK/Tesco 2015