Children lose out on social benefits of walking to school

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Primary school children in the South who do not walk to school are potentially missing out on a range of social, physical and practical benefits, according to a YouGov poll.

The results from the poll, commissioned by Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, have been released to celebrate the start of International Walk to School Month.

The poll asked three generations* in Great Britain what they enjoyed about walking to school.

It found that children in the South, 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 43 per cent respectively.

Just 46 per cent of primary-aged children now walk to school (National Travel Survey 2014) so lots of children are missing out on this. This figure is in contrast to the 70 per cent of people their parents’ age who used to walk.

For these older generations in the South who normally walked to school the poll revealed that meeting their friends on the way was also what they enjoyed the most (62 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, with a massive 88 per cent of children in the South aged 8-11 putting it first. Also high on the list was independence (31%) and road awareness (53%).

Helen Corkery, Project Manager (South), 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 action also saves parents money and reduces car emissions, thereby protecting children further. What better way to start the day than with precious family time?”

Recognising the wide-ranging benefits that walking to school bring, 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.

Helen Corkery continued: “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.”

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