TIPS AND IDEAS FOR MAKING THE CHANGE
We all know walking is good for us, but we’ve grown accustomed to just hopping in the car to get us anywhere, near or far. There may be obstacles in family schedules and situations that prevent walking all or some of the time, but often times it is changing our habits and mindset. Make driving your exception rather than your rule.
• Students should walk with siblings or neighbors, rather than alone. Younger students should walk with adults or older students.
• Turn your “carpool” into a “walkingpool”. Take turns walking your group to/from school rather than driving. One set of parents, all with kids on different tracks, each take alternating weeks dropping and picking up their young students. They are having great success with this plan. If you don’t have a group, make one! Even on days when weather other circumstances prevent walking, you have cut down on traffic around the school.
• If you are in an outlying area of the school and feel it is too far to walk, drive part way, find a place to park your car and let the kids walk the rest or get out and walk it with them and vice versa after school. You’ll definitely save time not having to leave early to get a “spot” and possibly a little sanity keeping out of the congestion.
• Time can be a concern, but regarding school pick up, are you really saving time? To get a “spot”, parents need to get to the school 10-20 minutes early depending on where you pick up. Use that time to walk instead and you’ll find when you add it all up you may have even spent less time walking than sitting in your car waiting.
• As children reach the older grades it may be scary to give them the independence to walk without an adult so start off small. Walk or park a little bit further from the school to wait, as you get comfortable, gradually increase the distance.
• In 2009, only 35 percent students in grades K through eight students who lived within a mile of school usually walked or bicycled to school even once a week. U.S. School Travel Fact Sheet: 1969-2009 Data. Prepared by the National Center for Safe Routes to School September, 2011. (in press).
o This is an opportunity lost. Walking or bicycling to school gives children time for physical activity and a sense of responsibility and independence; it also creates an opportunity to be outdoors and provides time to connect with parents, friends and neighbors. The entire community benefits when there is less traffic congestion.
• School travel by private family vehicle for students grades K through 12 accounted for 10 to 14 percent of all automobile trips made during the morning peak period in 2009 and two to three percent of the total annual trips made by family vehicle in the U.S.1
• If more children walked or bicycled to school, it would reduce the number of cars near the school at pick-up and drop-off times, making it safer for walkers and bicyclists and reducing congestion.
• Experts recommend that children do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day and that the bulk of this physical activity comes through aerobic exercise, such as walking or bicycling. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Retrieved February 1, 2011 from http://health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf.)
• Walking and bicycling to school offers an opportunity for children to get physical activity as part of their daily routine.
o The U.S. public health initiative Healthy People 2020 recognizes walking and bicycling to school as an opportunity to increase physical activity among children and adolescents five to fifteen years of age. The initiative’s goal is increase the rate of walking trips to school when the distance is one mile or less and to increase bicycling trips when the distance is two miles or less. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.)
• Potential benefits of physical activity for youth include: (American Heart Association. (2008). Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children. Retrieved August 11, 2011from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Physical-Activity-and-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp.; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basics about Childhood Obesity. Retrieved August 1, 2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html.; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; At-A-Glance: A Fact Sheet for Professionals. Retrieved August 1, 2011 from http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/factSheetProf.aspx.)
o Weight control
o Reducing blood pressure
o Raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
o Improved cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular fitness and bone health
o Reduction in the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
o Improved mental health
• Physical activity is associated with improved academic performance in children and adolescents. (California Department of Education. A study of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement in California using 2004 test results. Retrieved August 15, 2008 from http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/pf/documents/2004pftresults.doc.; 27 Castelli, D.M., Hillman, C.H., Buck, S.M., & Erwin, H.E. (2007). Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third- and Fifth-Grade Students. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29, 239-252.)
• Passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, and SUVs together account for 62 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2006). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the U.S. Transportation Sector, 1990-2003. Retrieved July 17, 2008 from http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420r06003.pdf.) The transportation sector is responsible for one third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the US. (Greene, D.L. & Schafer, A. (2003). Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation. Washington, D.C.: The Pew Center on Global Climate Change.)
• Air pollutants are especially harmful to children as their respiratory systems are still developing.
o Air pollution has negative effects on lung development in children and can reduce lung function, increase respiratory infection, and aggravate asthma symptoms. (World Health Organization. (2004). Health Aspects of Air Pollution: Results from the WHO project “Systematic Review of Health Aspects of Air Pollution in Europe.” Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe. Retrieved July 17, 2008 from http://www.euro.who.int/document/E83080.pdf.)
o Asthma remains one of the most prevalent chronic childhood diseases and is a major cause of childhood disability. (Akinbami, L.J. (2006). The State of Childhood Asthma, United States, 1980-2005. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, 381. Retrieved July 17, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad381.pdf.)
o Nearly 13 million school days are missed annually due to asthma. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy Youth: Health Topics: Asthma. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/asthma/.)
• Walking and bicycling to school provide opportunities for children and families to reduce their carbon usage and contribute to the health of the environment.
o If a family walks to school rather than driving a personal vehicle they can reduce their carbon use by .164 metric tons annually. If half of the students at an average size elementary school choose to walk to school their impact could be a savings of over 39 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. (Calculations based on a round trip school journey of 2 miles and a 180 day school year. Greenhouse gas emissions are estimated using methods developed by the EPA. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420f05004.htm.) This is the equivalent of the carbon-removing abilities of 1000 trees. (According to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Retrieved July 17, 2008 from http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html.)
o Leaving the car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. (US Environmental Protection Agency. (2008). Climate Change – What You Can Do. Retrieved August 15, 2008 from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/road.html.)
• Exposure to nature and time for free outdoor play can have multiple health benefits including stress reduction, relief of ADHD symptoms in children and increased cognitive and motor functioning. (Wells, N.M. (2000) At Home with Nature: Effects of “Greenness” on Children’s Cognitive Functioning. Environment and Behavior 32, 775-795; Wells, N.M. & Evans, G.W. (2003). Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress among Rural Children. Environment and Behavior, 35(3), 311-330; Huttenmoser, M. (1995). Children and Their Living Surroundings: Empirical Investigations into the Significance of Living Surroundings for the Everyday Life and Development of Children. Children's Environments 12(4), 1-17; Kuo, E.K. & Taylor, A.F. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health 94(9), 1580-1586.)
• The daily walk to school offers children an opportunity to spend time in the natural environment. When appropriate and safe, walking and bicycling to school is an experience that can help children develop a sense of independence that is important for development.
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