Research finding that walking to school is healthier for kids continues to pile up. A new study from the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark found what many parents, teachers, and Safe Routes to School advocates have long known: a little bit of exercise before school can improve kids’ ability to concentrate at school. The study, which found that children who were driven or bused to school had less ability to concentrate in the classroom compared to those who walked or cycled.
The study’s authors interviewed nearly 20,000 students aged between five and 19 years. The researchers were actually researching the link between benefits of eating breakfast and lunch and the children’s ability to concentrate, but during the interviews, researchers also collected information about the exercise habits of the students. Concentration level of these participants was measured through tests. And to their surprise, they found that how the kids were getting to school was being reflected in the level of concentration the kids had even four hours later. At the end of the study, researchers found children who reported cycling or walking to school scoring higher on concentration tests. In fact, the study’s results showed that exercise before school has more of an impact on concentration than eating breakfast and lunch does.
Not only does walking and biking to school help improve kids’ concentration, there are environmental and physical benefits as well:
- Walking to school doesn’t just make kids happy — it eases the morning commute for drivers. Parents dropping their kids off at school account for a full 25% of morning traffic. When students and their families walking or biking to school instead of driving, streets see less traffic. Less traffic means fewer costly repaving and maintenance projects, too.
- As levels of walking and biking to school have fallen, childhood obesity has skyrocketed. In 1969, nearly 50% of all kids walked or rode bikes to school. Today, only 13% of children get to school on foot or by bike. Meanwhile, the percent of obese children rose 276% between 1966 and 2009. Kids who walk or bike to school are more physically active and less likely to be obese than their peers who are driven or bused to school.
Here at the Greater Mercer TMA, where we act as the local Safe Routes to School coordinators for Mercer and Ocean counties in New Jersey, we want to help create a walking and biking culture at every school in our region. At no cost, GMTMA can help your school and community implement a SRTS program by helping you with the following SRTS elements:
- Document existing conditions
- Identify assets, barriers, goals and actions
- Outline responsibilities and funding sources
Bike/Walk Events & Education Assistance
- Walking School Buses
- Bike Rodeos
- Safety education and “how to” teaching materials
Evaluation and Monitoring
- Establish baseline of existing conditions
- Student arrival/departure counts
- Parent/caregiver surveys
- Measure progress and adjust program as needed