On October 2nd, children throughout Bennington County, and in over 40 countries, will participate in International Walk to School Day. First held in 1997, the annual event encourages students and their families to rediscover the joys and benefits of walking to school.
Studies have shown that walking to school—or anywhere—is a great way to boost physical activity and help maintain a healthy weight in children of all ages. That, in turn, helps reduce incidences of Type 2 diabetes and other illnesses associated with obesity.
Walking also provides kids with good life learning experience, as it gives them the chance to be independent, think responsibly and make decisions for themselves. Children who experience anxiety may also find that knowing that they know how to get home by themselves provides some relief. Plus, for children who walk with others, the daily ritual allows them to build friendships and learn to feel comfortable around different people. As for teens who often prefer alone-time to any other kind, the walk to school can offer them a few valuable minutes to think, relax, and thoughtfully prepare for their day.
But the benefits of walking don’t stop once they reach school. Studies have shown that students who walk (or bike) to school show higher academic achievement, better cognitive performance, and better reading fluency. In addition, for grade school children with ADHD, physical activity has been shown to significantly help with the symptoms of their disorder.
For families who typically drive their kids to school, walking offers even more benefits. First, is the dollar savings that walking offers over driving. Furthermore, for parents who choose to accompany their kids, walking provides yet another time to connect and relate to each other without the distractions of a busy household or a driving a car.
While October 2nd is a great reason to walk to school, all these reasons may provide the motivation to make it a daily routine.
Jaclyn Lozier, MD, is a pediatrician at SVMC Pediatrics in Bennington.