May is National Walking Month. The campaign is led by Living Streets, which is a charity that a long time ago campaigned for zebra crossings and speed limits. Now they want to encourage people to get outside and to walk every day!
As part of the campaign, next week (15-19th) is Walk to School Week 2017, and the focus is on children and parents to lace up their walking shoes for the school commute. This is really important because children are less physically active now than maybe ever before. Walking to school is not only a fantastic way to energetically start the day and increase activity levels, but it can also help to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
Admittedly, putting walking first isn’t always easy. There can be lots of obstacles, such as distance, safety concerns, making sure children arrive at school before the first bell rings, and parents still get to work on time, to name a few. But walking to school can benefit the entire family, and every journey counts.
Consider taking small steps to start with. For example, walk only some days of the week, just one way to/from school, or even just walk part of the way before catching a bus for the remainder of a journey. Walking is simple, free and one of the easier ways to be active, but there are other options too. Cycling and scooting are excellent alternatives to get children to school under their own steam. There are several initiatives in Bradford that can help make sure children are cycle savvy, for example Bikeability Cycle Training.
There are lots of reasons why physical activity is important for children. Here at Born in Bradford we recently studied physical activity and body fat levels in more than 300 1-5y olds. Children wore a monitor on their waist for one week to measure movements, including walking, and body fat levels were measured by taking (painless) pinches of skin using calipers. We found that children who moved more had lower levels of body fat. Other studies agree: more active school children are generally fitter, healthier, and happier.