The school run is a health time bomb, report warns, at start of Walk to School Week

 

Today’s generation of schoolchildren are being set on a path towards future illness by parents who insist on driving them to school, according to a new report being released today to mark Walk to School Week.

The health timebomb from children who grow up not walking to school could cost the country billions, claims the Must Try Harder report by the charity Living Streets.

Fears of children being abducted or run over on the way to school, along with time pressures, have resulted in a major shift in attitudes towards walking to school.

And it has gone from being the norm to the exception in the space of a generation, according to a major new report by the Living Streets charity.

Eight out of ten (81 per cent) parents of primary school children walked to school themselves.

Now, despite rising rates of obesity among children, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of parents automatically drive their children to school and more than one in five (21  per cent) have never considered making sure their children walk to school.

Obesity-related health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers will cost Britain £27 billion by 2015.

The simple act of walking to school is not only good for children’s physical health, but helps embed a good attitude to exercise and keeping healthy.

It needs to be a key element of the government strategy to encourage Britons to be more physically active, says Living Streets.

Less than half [49 per cent] of primary school children walk to school despite the majority (75 per cent) living within two miles of school.

One in five primary school children don’t walk to school because their parents state that they don’t have time to walk with them.

The problem is even worse among secondary school children – with just 38 per cent opting to walk to school.

And although children start off wanting to get to school themselves, with 59 per cent of primary school pupils willing to walk up to 20 minutes to school each day, the interest wanes as they get older with just 37 per cent of secondary school pupils prepared to do this.

The government’s performance in encouraging children to walk to school has been “mixed” and it “must try harder”, according to the report. “The previous Government’s school travel strategy was quickly ditched with no replacement,” it says.

The walk to school is not only beneficial for physical and mental health, but helps reduce traffic congestion – with fewer cars doing the ‘school run’ – improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions,” states the report.

And campaigners are fighting to reverse the trend towards children being driven to school – aiming to make sure that more than half of primary school children will be walking to school again by 2017.

Tony Armstrong, chief executive, Living Streets, said: “The overwhelming majority of our grans and granddads walked to school, but over generations we are seeing a steady decline to the point where it seems a fifth of parents wouldn’t even think about ensuring their child walks to school.  Meanwhile obesity rates have more than doubled, even since I walked to school just 20-odd years ago.”

He added: “Encouraging the walk to school not only helps to keep children healthy today, but makes for healthier adults in the future. We know that time-pressed parents often see jumping into the car as the easiest way to get children to school on time, but we do so at the risk of storing up health problems for them in the future.”

CASE STUDY

Mother of three Laura Lashmar, from Sheffield, loved walking to school with her mum and would hate for her children to miss out.  “Just as my mum walked me to school I’ve done the same with my boys.  Walking with your children when they’re younger is a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time together and hear about their day. It’s also a good way to show them road safety skills, so when they’re older and want to walk to school on their own or with their friends, you can feel comfortable that they’re familiar with routes and how to cross roads.  It’s important for children to develop independence and walking to school is a good way to build their confidence.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Health & Safety Support Tutor

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in the devel...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent