From the time I was in kindergarten until my older brother got his driver’s license, I walked to and from school. My school was a good ten blocks from my house, but it was residential all the way with wide sidewalks and friendly neighbors looking out for me. But this was the 1970’s and I had lots of company on my journey as every other kid in the neighborhood was also walking to and from school.
These days, it’s rare to see a kid walking to school. My own child rides the bus because her school is about three miles away and the majority of the route involves busy roads with no sidewalks. But if she could safely walk to school, experts say she might actually reduce her risk of heart disease later in life.
Based on a study out of University of Buffalo, researchers say children who walk to school experience less cardiovascular reactivity when in stressful situations than kids who get a ride. Cardiovascular reactivity refers to changes in heart rate and blood pressure as a reaction to stress and has been linked to the beginnings of cardiovascular disease in children.
What the researchers don’t know is just how long the protective benefits of walking to school lasts. But because it likely doesn’t last all day and because it is impossible for many kids to walk to school, this study brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves with public schools: Recess. Or rather, the lack of recess.
Despite the fact that recess has been shown to have a positive impact on learning and improve classroom behavior, many school administrators feel it has no value. And with increasing pressure to post academic gains, public school districts around the country have simply done away with recess.
This is shortsighted and ultimately harmful to students. As this study proves, recess isn’t just fun for kids, it’s good for them, too.
Image: Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr
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