Walking or wheeling to school is an even better option during the pandemic

Active school travel is healthier for both you and your children and can help reduce stress

If it's an option for your children, using active transportation methods to get to and from school is an excellent way for students to get some exercise and maintain physical distancing during the pandemic. (Photo: GreenUP)
If it's an option for your children, using active transportation methods to get to and from school is an excellent way for students to get some exercise and maintain physical distancing during the pandemic. (Photo: GreenUP)

It is normal to feel some anxiety about a new year at school, but this year is different. These emotions are heightened because of COVID-19 and the impact it is having on back-to-school planning. Parents, caretakers, children, and youth across the country face potentially stressful decisions and changes.

If your children are returning this fall, you may be thinking about how they will get to and from school. Active School Travel Peterborough has always promoted walking and wheeling as some of the most beneficial school travel options for the health and safety of students, communities, and the environment. These benefits are even more precious during the ongoing pandemic.

Many recognize the benefits to including active transportation for the trip to and from school, but think that it will not work with their schedule. While dropping your kids off at school on the way to work may seem like the most convenient option, you may actually find that spending a little extra time and energy to include active transportation in your routine can have positive impacts on your whole family.

Active School Travel Peterborough has put together this list of five reasons active transportation is worth considering while you prepare to return to school, especially this year.

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1. Enjoy the benefits of physical activity

Regardless of age, self-care is crucial for us all and being active regularly is a key component of self-care.

“Physical activity needs to be part of your self-care routine,” as the folks at ParticipACTION point out. “You don’t have to be a gym rat to reap the benefits, as research consistently highlights that even small bouts of daily physical activity (in five to 10 minute intervals) can have immediate positive impacts on your mood. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use physical activity as a powerful tool to feel better.”

Children and youth require at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. For some, this is difficult to fit into a normal day. Walking, biking or scootering to and from school, even for short trips, can add much-needed activity and get kids moving. The World Health Organization says that even a bit of physical activity is good for our mental health and improves overall feelings.

Research from the City of Peterborough says that children who spend more time outdoors and in nature are happier and healthier. (Photo: GreenUP)
Research from the City of Peterborough says that children who spend more time outdoors and in nature are happier and healthier. (Photo: GreenUP)

 

2. Get outdoors

Children who spend time in nature tend to be happier and healthier, according to 2019 report from the City of Peterborough on child development.

Being outside allows families to easily apply physical distancing measures while enjoying social interactions.

Being active outside also keeps you feeling connected to nature and turn the trip to and from school into a chance to relax and reconnect with family, friends, and the world around you.

Educators around the world are encouraging the use of outdoor environments as vibrant extensions of the classroom. These outdoor classes benefit learning, health, and wellness, according to Evergreen, a non-profit dedicated to creating sustainable urban environments.

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3. Kick-start your brain

Being active can help you feel more energetic, improve your confidence, reduce stress and even improve your sleep, according to Peterborough Public Health.

Teachers have even observed that students who walk or bike to school arrive more alert and ready to learn.

 

4. Make school zones safer by decreasing the number of vehicles

As well as reducing the number of vehicles in school zones, being active on the way to and from school can help both you and children feel more energetic during the day and even help you sleep better at night. (Photo: GreenUP)
As well as reducing the number of vehicles in school zones, being active on the way to and from school can help both you and children feel more energetic during the day and even help you sleep better at night. (Photo: GreenUP)

Anyone who has experienced a school zone full of personal vehicles during arrival or departure time understands that these conditions are not ideal for safety, stress levels, and the environment of the whole school community. Clearing cars out of the school zone leaves safe space for the flow of school buses and pedestrians.

Fewer cars near schools means families can feel more confident in the safety of their children entering and exiting the school grounds or navigating the streets on the way to school. Reducing vehicle traffic can also improve the air quality around schools and reduce the time school staff would have to spend directing traffic.

For those who must drive, Park n’ Stride is an excellent option. Park a few blocks outside the school zone and walk the rest of the way to school. Park n’ Stride decreases congestion in the school zone and allows students to get a bit of physical activity.

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5. Create a routine and reduce stress

Even under normal circumstances morning routines and getting to school can be a source of anxiety or friction. Add a pandemic to the mix and even little things may feel overwhelming. In these times, we can all benefit from smooth morning routines that can improve our mood, health, and safety.

Planning for active school travel can help everyone enjoy the little things and reduce stress. Figure out which route to school works best for your family and practice it ahead of time. Get the kids involved with the planning and preparation as they are are likely feeling a little out of sorts with all the new guidelines, procedures, and rules. It goes a long way to allow them to have some control over certain aspects of their day.

Figuring out a way to work active transportation into the school commute is a great way of relieving some stress during the day. If you must drive your kids to school, consider parking a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way. (Photo: GreenUP)
Figuring out a way to work active transportation into the school commute is a great way of relieving some stress during the day. If you must drive your kids to school, consider parking a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way. (Photo: GreenUP)

 

Active School Travel Peterborough is continuing to work with schools and our community partners on fun and informative active school travel programs. We want all students and families to have a safe, wonderful school year, filled with learning and joy.

For more information on Active School Travel Peterborough programs and resources, visit peterboroughmoves.com/programs/active-and-safe-routes-to-school/ or email jaime.akiyama@greenup.on.ca.

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