From the Health Room
Making the case for a car-free commute to school
Students across the country celebrated International Walk to School and Bike to school day earlier this month, including students (in Newton and here at Ward School). Thousands of students reaped the numerous health and environmental benefits that walking, biking or riding the bus to school provides. Walking or biking to school shouldn't just be a once a year activity though. We're lucky in Newton that most students live close enough to walk, bike or ride a bus to school every day. Read on to learn why a car-free commute to school is a healthy way to start your day, and tips for getting going!
Regular physical activity, including walking to school, provides the following benefits according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
- Helps control weight, build lean muscle and reduce fat.
- Improves sense of self-image and autonomy.
- Fosters healthy social and emotional development.
- More students walking, biking or taking the bus helps reduce car congestion around the school, and reduce the environmental impact cars make.
- Even students who take the bus benefit from walking to and from the bus stop, and the sense of independence created by getting to school on their own.
- Students who walk and bike to school learn the rules of the road, which can help make them better pedestrians and drivers as they get older and get to school on their own.
- Even for parents who are planning to drive to work, walking to school can be quicker than dealing with car congestion around the school building. Or if you must drive, consider dropping students off a few blocks before the school and allowing them to walk the rest of the way.
- It's possible to walk year round, even in New England. Break out those snow boots, hats, gloves, galoshes and rain/winter coats when the weather forecast calls for them.
- If you're not sure where to begin, consider making a dry run on a weekend when there isn't pressure to be on time. Practice the route with your child so s/he knows where to go.
- Safety first! Always wear a helmet when bicycling, riding a scooter, or anything else with wheels.
An important note about idling:
The Massachusetts school idling regulation prohibits motor vehicle idling within 100 feet of school grounds. The fine is $100 for a first offense, and $500 for each subsequent offense. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Idling vehicles contribute to air pollution and emit air toxins, which are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children. Children's lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Limiting a vehicle's idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children's exposure to them."
"Turn your key, be idle free!"