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Want your kids (and you and the planet) to feel better?

To mark Walk to School Week 2023, Living Streets’ Tanya Braun tells us about the many benefits walking to school brings not only to children, but to adults and the environment.

15th May 2023

by Tanya Braun
Director for policy and communications, Living Streets

Walking is one of the easiest ways for people of all ages to keep healthy and spend time with friends and family but less than half of primary school children walk to school in England today, compared with 70% in the 1970s.

So, each year Living Streets runs Walk to School Week to help reverse this decline.

Walk To School Week sees us motivate families to swap the school run for a school walk and celebrate the many benefits of walking to school.

Families are encouraged to walk, wheel, cycle, scoot or ‘Park and Stride’ for the week to see the big differences that come from small steps - from healthier and happier children to fewer cars outside the school gates.

Our fun and engaging week-long activity packs for primary schools are designed to teach pupils about the importance of this simple activity.

Last year, more than 200,000 pupils across the UK took part in our Walk to School Week challenge, and we’re hoping that this year will be bigger than ever. 

This year's theme, Walk with Wildlife, encourages children to travel actively to school every day of the week.

With a different animal for each day of the school week, kids can learn about the important reasons to walk and the difference it can make for individuals, communities and the planet.

Walking is one of the easiest ways for people of all ages to keep healthy and spend time with friends and family, but less than half of primary school children walk to school in England today compared with 70% in the 1970s.

Because while, according to Sport England's Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, children and young people’s activity levels overall have recovered to pre-pandemic levels (47% are exercising for 60 minutes or more each day), which is definitely good news, there are many more kids who could – and should – be enjoying a regular walk.

Walking to school helps contribute to the 60 active minutes a day recommended by health experts to keep children healthy and happy.

Being active helps to prevent long-term chronic health conditions such as certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and the potential mental health benefits of walking to school from a young age are also significant.

Walking stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and brain chemicals, including endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin. These trigger positive and happy feelings, help improve mental wellbeing and reduce stress and anxiety.

A boy and a girl walk side by side towards their school.

An active lifestyle can tackle more serious forms of mental health issues, including depression and social withdrawal, too.

Encouraging children to move is a great way to balance out screen time and regular walks can improve sleep cycles, as well as the quality of their rest.

Walking with your kids also provides quality time together as a family and is a chance for children to spend time with their friends and peers outside of school.

But there's more - getting children into walking from a young age creates healthy habits for life, promotes independence and freedom, and teaches road awareness.

And let’s not forget that walking can protect the planet too!

In the UK, the school run is responsible for half a million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, but swapping driving for walking reduces harmful emissions and improves the quality of the air we breathe.

In schools taking part in WOW, the walk to school challenge campaign from Living Streets, we see a 30% drop in cars driving all the way to the school gates, and this stops a massive 190kg of CO2 per participating school each year. 

It is never too early or late to start walking to school, so if you have a child going to school this week, give walking a go and you’ll soon notice the difference in how you all feel!

Find out more about Walk to School 2023

Walk with Wildlife

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