5 Reasons Your Kids Should Walk to School

Girl on sidewalk carrying scooter
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When your kids walk to school (or ride a bike or scooter), they're setting the tone for a good day. Sure, sometimes distance, weather, and other safety considerations make such "active commuting" impossible. But if your kids have a mile or less to travel, they should hoof it. Here are five research-backed reasons why.

1. It's Safer Than You Think

By about age 10, kids are old enough to cross streets safely and handle other emergencies that may come up. Before then, crossing guards can help, and so can adult chaperones. (If you can't walk with your child, see if you can form a walking school bus or bike train—basically, a car-less carpool!) At least one study has investigated kids' active commuting rates and traffic injuries, and found that "a higher rate of children walking or biking to school has no significant association with traffic-related injury."

Plus, when more kids walk to school, neighborhoods flourish—a virtuous cycle which makes them safer and more pleasant to walk in. As another study found, "Communities that have invested in infrastructure to promote walking or biking have shown increased property values, improved air quality, reduced urban heat injury (see #3, below), and greater social cohesion."

2. Good Exercise

Active commuting helps prevent obesity. Kids who walked to school in kindergarten had lower BMI scores in fifth grade, one study showed. Active school commuters are more likely to walk or bike other places at other times of the day. No matter what their daily diet is, active commuters are less likely to be overweight or obese than other kids.

A 7-year study of 1700 high school students in New England predicted that obesity prevalence would decrease by 22 percent if teens walked or biked to school four or five days a week.

3. Save Some Money

When you avoid driving your kids to school, you save on gasoline and wear and tear on your car. Plus you're lessening carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change.

4. Walking to School Helps Your Child Learn

Several studies have documented how kids benefit academically from active commuting: They show higher academic achievement, better cognitive performance, better reading fluency, and improved executive functioning. One study that focused on kids with attention disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity "significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids."

5. Social Time

You'd be amazed at the conversations that you can have with your child while walking. And as Safe Routes to School points out, active commuting helps both parents and children "build a sense of neighborhood." When kids walk to school, parents are more likely to be involved at school and/or in the community.

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