The list of the benefits of getting to and from school actively is long, varied, and well-documented. Here’s a brief summary of some of the more important ones.
Learning – School usually involves a lot of sitting, often in a room with somewhat stale air. Neither promotes getting blood to the brain. Walking/biking to school in the open air moves extra oxygen to your brain, making it easier to stay alert and attentive, and to retain new information.
Emotional well-being – Regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce depression and anxiety, and elevate mood. It needn’t be very vigorous or prolonged. Even walking at regular speed has an effect. If you have a route that is well-treed, take it; research has found that even 10 minutes spend in a wooded area helps alleviate a variety of mental distress.
Physical health – Even if obesity isn’t an issue for you, the movement that come from walking/biking to school if good for your joints, builds muscle, and improves the functioning of your heart and lungs. The more energetic the movement the better.
Self-confidence, independence, and decision-making – Being driven to school involves almost no independent thought. The driver is making all the decisions. You could just as well be a suitcase sitting there, or fast asleep. Walking/biking to school means that you get to make choices, not big ones maybe, but when you’re young even small decisions give you practice for making bigger more important ones. With this responsibility comes self-confidence and independence that affects every part of your life.
Socialization – Do you really want to hang around your parents, following their schedule? Walking/riding gives you an opportunity to meet other kids walking to school, some your age, but others older or younger than you. It’ll give you practice meeting new people, and maybe making new friends.
A chance to explore and create – There’s not much new and interesting in the back seat or front seat of your family car. Perhaps it’s super-clean. Or maybe it’s got shopping bags or fast food wrappers on the floor. Pretty boring, and you’re in your seat-belt anyways, so even if something on the floor or in the back looks interesting, you can’t get to it. For some reason, people seem to have creative ideas while they walk. By varying your route and paying attention to what’s around you, you’ll get to see different things and may find yourself fascinated by the sights, sounds, smells, and touches that you encounter.
- Why walking to school is better than driving your kids – George Mannen, U of Toronto
- Walking: Discover the Benefits – UK government
- Is excessive supervision harming children’s health? – Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
- The unexpected benefits of walking to school – Jane Dunne, Specialty Technical Publishers
- Benefits of kids walking – Sustrans.org.uk
- 4 reasons why walking school benefits kids – treehugger.com