Letter: Kids need exercise

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The Independent Culture
Sir: It was good to see the issue of school travel nestling amongst the fag butts, hamburgers and video games in your coverage of the Government's new survey of children's health ("Flabby youngsters put health at risk", 15 December). Research undertaken for us by the Institute of Child Health reveals the importance of changing patterns of school travel for both child and adult health.

Although walking to school has declined in recent years, 49 per cent of school trips are still on foot. Walking to school represents 41 per cent of the average distance walked by all children annually. It is therefore a vital component of children's overall physical activity at a time when children take less and less exercise. As your report emphasises, childhood patterns of exercise are likely to persist into adult life. Today's sedentary child is tomorrow's heart attack victim.

Parental concern about traffic danger (often caused by other parents on the school run) and "stranger danger" are the main causes of the decline in school walking. These issues, and the health implications of longer school trips arising from "parental choice" in schools, need urgent attention as part of the Government's programme to improve childhood health.



The Pedestrians Association

London EC1