number of youth.”
In addition to the health contributions of SRTS, a number of social benefits arise from walking and bicycling to school. Such physical activity gives children a sense of responsibility and independence; allows them to enjoy being outside; and provides them time to socialize with their parents and friends and to get to know their neighborhoods. Recent research from England indicates that parents who walk their children to school are spending more valuable social time with their family and friends than parents who drive their children (6). The study found that children who are driven are also far more likely to avoid socializing en route with their parents or siblings, opting instead for solitary activities, such as listening to their MP3 players, playing video games or reading.
Good for Hearts and Heads
We are starting to see that what’s good for our hearts is also good for our heads. Regular physical activity can help control weight, reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health and mood (7). At a time when public schools are shifting resources away from physical education and recess, research is showing that physical activity may improve academic performance. Safe Routes to School, because of its before- and after-school nature, can
be an important component of children’s health and wellbeing.
For more information about the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, including how to join the Healthy Schools Program, visit http://www.healthiergeneration.org
Visit the Safe Routes National Partnership for additional research highlights at http://www.saferoutespartnership.
- California Department of Education. A study of the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement in California using 2004 test results. Retrieved August 15, 2008 at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/pf/
Castelli, D.M., Hillman, C.H., Buck, S.M., & Erwin, H.E. (2007). Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third- and Fifth-Grade Students. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29, 239-252.
- Hillman, C.H., Pontifec, M.B., Raine, L.B., Castelli, D.M., Hall, E.E., Kramer, A.F. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159, 1044-1054.
- American Heart Association. (2008). Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children. Retrieved March 10, 2010 at www.americanheart.org/presenter
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2007). Active education: Physical education, physical activity and academic performance. San Diego, CA: Active Living Research. Retrieved April 14, 2010 at http://www.activelivingresearch