Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pedestrian Safety Kids Walk to School 'Legging it to School is Better' Herald Sun Community Safety

Legging it to school is better
  • by: Kamahl Cogdon
  • From: Herald Sun
  • May 18, 2011 12:00AM
Walking to school with your children delivers health benefits for everyone. Picture: Mark Calleja Source: Herald Sun

EVER wondered why school drop-off and pick-up times are so chaotic?

Just maybe it's because more and more of us are driving our children to the school gate and then collecting them again at the end of the day.

For many busy parents, driving is the most convenient way to get the kids to and from school on time.
But it is not the healthiest.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia, which is promoting National Walk Safely to School Day on Friday, says it's no coincidence that obesity rates are rising as walking declines.

Being driven to school can also mean kids miss out on vital life skills, Victoria Walks executive officer Dr Ben Rossiter warns.

"The trip to and from school and around the neighbourhood is often as, if not more, important than what happens inside a classroom," Rossiter says.

"It's where kids learn to negotiate the environment, traffic, people. The social benefits are just as important as physical activity."

Rossiter says walking also gives parents and kids time to connect.

Carment Garrett, clinical project co-ordinator of headspace, agrees activities such as walking to school are a great opportunity for parents to tap into their children's lives.

"Sometimes spending time with your child in that way can give you more of a sense of what's happening in their lives than if you tried to sit down and have that sort of conversation," Garrett says.

"Really getting to know your child also puts parents in a good position to notice changes, and that's really important in detecting mental-health problems."

Garrett says time walking with parents also helps children feel "a sense of belonging and connectedness".

Rossiter says the percentage of children walking to and from school has plunged since 1974, when about 44 per cent of school kids travelled by foot.

By 2003, only about 15 per cent of kids walked. In the same time, car travel has grown from about 22 per cent to 70 per cent.

Rossiter says urban sprawl, which has left many people living further from places such as schools, and increasingly busy lives have contributed to our growing dependence on cars.

"People sometimes assume it's quicker to take the car," he says.

"But if you've got 10 parents who can share walking the kids to and from school, you only need to do it once a week and you then save time on all the other days."

Friday is National Walk Safely to School Day. See walk.com.au for more information.

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