Heading back to school on foot

There is one activity that we all know to be a fun and easy way for families to get moving together – walking! Walking could not be better for the body and now we know that it is excellent for the mind, too, especially when we do it in the morning. For kids, starting the day in an active way often leads to a trend of more movement through the whole course of the day. For parents, the trip to school may be the perfect time to fit in a walk and spend some quality time with the kids, as well as get a few steps while saving money on gas. Now that school is starting back up, you can set your kids up for a successful year by making the morning commute on foot.  Research shows that walking to school helps children to concentrate better in class. This added ability to focus comes from burning off some extra energy before settling into a day of learning.

Safe Routes to School is helping to make it easier and safer for communities to switch from driving to walking or even biking to school. This switch would be a wonderful shift back to what used to be common practice among American families. Today about 10% of students walk or bike to school while 40 years ago, almost half of students did. But we know that this decrease could be a result of lots of factors, including,

  • The distance from home to school: some children travel several miles to school each day, so walking or biking is simply not an option. If the distance is less than a couple miles, biking could be a great solution to get in some morning activity while still getting to school in half the time it would take to walk. If driving or taking public transit allows your child some extra shut-eye, that’s helpful, too. It’s important for kids to get enough sleep so that they can be happy and focused during the school day.
  • The weekday morning time crunch: both parents and kids have busy work/school schedules – so the morning is valuable prep time for the day’s activities. If your family’s wake-up-and-get-out-the-door routine is regularly rushed, consider whether things like preparing lunch, picking an outfit, and packing a backpack or briefcase could be done the night before. The time saved in the morning could be just enough for a fun, family walking commute
  • Parent’s concerns about street safety: Boston may be the third most walkable city in the country, but sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, and traffic can be a concern in some areas of the city. Keep in mind that there can be safety in numbers. So if walking in a group would ease some of your concerns, your family may want to start or join a walking school bus – a group of children who walk to school together with one or more adults. Get your free walking school bus kit to learn how to set one up with your neighbors today

If walking to school is an option for your family, start by measuring how walkable your neighborhood is with this walkability checklist. You can make a big impact on your family’s wellbeing and your community’s support for creating or maintaining safe, walkable streets by walking your kids to school this year. Have a great school year!

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