Kids going to school or riding bikes can lead to long-term fitness

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By Sydney Murphy HealthDay Reporter

Health Day Reporter

FRIDAY, September 9, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Children who walk, skateboard or bike to school when they are young are more likely to keep up as they get older and reap the health benefits that recent research suggests.

“The journey to school is a wonderful moment of the day that gives children a glimpse into an active lifestyle,” said study co-author David Tulloch, professor of landscape architecture at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “When people start running early, it can have a lasting impact on their health.”

According to the National Household Travel Survey, approximately 11% of children in the United States walk or bike to and from school. That rate hasn’t changed in a decade.

In the study, researchers found that children are much more likely to “actively commute” (travel on foot, bike, or even skateboard) if they learn to do so at a young age.

To see if active commuting stays the same over time, the researchers surveyed parents and carers twice between 2009 and 2017 — spaced two to four years apart — about their children’s school commuting habits. The families lived in Camden, New Brunswick, Newark and Trenton. these are mostly low-income New Jersey cities.

Tulloch and his team found out how far away the school was and took note of the local area.

The researchers found that more than 75% of the children who were actively commuting at the start of the study were still doing so two to four years later. And only a few, who had never done it before, began actively commuting as researchers followed suit.

The study found that those who started out cycling, walking, or skateboarding to school were seven times more likely to do so two to four years later.

“Most children don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day,” said lead author Robin DeWeese, assistant professor of research at Arizona State University. “Active commuting to school is one way to get more of this activity.”

To encourage active commuting, DeWeese suggests that schools and communities encourage it in early grades because it can continue to help students later.


Commuter methods varied based on neighborhood demographics and perceptions. Children whose parents were born outside the United States were less likely to walk or cycle to school than children of US-born parents. And children whose parents thought their neighborhoods were safe were more than 2.5 times more likely to walk or bike to school.

Distance from home to school had the largest and most consistent impact on commuting, Tulloch said. Distance to school often increases as children get older, and the likelihood of active commuting decreases as they reach high school age.

Smarter city design can help reverse that trend, Tulloch said. Long-distance travelers and “running school buses” (groups of schoolchildren accompanied by volunteer parents) can encourage children to actively commute from an early age. Tulloch added that infrastructure improvements, like sidewalks and tree-lined streets, can make walking more comfortable.

“One of the most visited tourist attractions in New York City is the High Line, a walkable green space without cars,” Tulloch said in a university press release. “We should do this kind of planning everywhere – especially in the school zones.”

The results were published in the journal Reports on preventive medicine .

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides additional statistics on children’s physical activity.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, press release, September 6, 2022

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Kids going to school or riding bikes can lead to long-term fitness
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