Benefits of Walking to School

In today’s International Herald Tribune (IHT), I found an article about a topic close to my heart – or maybe I should say nearer my feet? It is about the lost art of walking to school. With so many school children being dropped off by parental drivers, this convenience not only causes more environmental pollution, traffic congestion, all the while promoting obesity, it also holds back individual and social growth. There are many benefits in walking to school.

This is not addressed to parents who live out of town, but to parents whose kids COULD walk to school. Granted, sometimes bags can be pretty heavy if your 9th grader has to bring his books, baseball gear, and trumpet to school. But for younger children, with less to carry, this would be feasible. I see most German elementary school children walking to school in the morning. (Schools are often found in walking distance as a German child gets assigned to the district’s public school, so there is no choice in that matter). Some walk alone, but others travel in groups, chatting as they make their way to the school.

Physical exercise is a good counter-balance to all the time spent sitting down while being entertained. With more and more kids tending towards obesity, it becomes obvious that affluent nations find more pleasure in moving less and eating more. In 1969, 40% of all U.S. American students walked to school. This number has shrunk to 13% by 2001.

There is more to life than home-car-school. While being chauffeured, one could easily drowse off again while the driver is navigating through rush-hour traffic. Besides having a little argument, there would not be much conversation going on between parents and children in the car. But walking with your peers in the early morning can stimulate ideas, helps in sharing information, relieving some worries, and making plans for your social life. Some kids would rather talk to their friends anyway.

These private rides cause more pollution. Not only will the parent be huffing and puffing trying to get the children to school on time, but our planet earth is doing the same with all these exhaust emissions going up in the air. Getting to school by walking 3/4 of a mile or 1 km is not asking too much.

Walking enables children to learn more about the environment. With eyes half-closed, not much of the outside is being perceived by sleepy kids in the back seat. With the help of fresh air, kids are more alert when on foot and can tune in to sirens whining, birds singing, friends calling, and church bells ringing. All five senses get stimulated, whether it would be smelling burning firewood or stepping on a worm by mistake. There is a lot of emotional development on the path to school.

We used to walk to school in our childhood. We would often pick up friends along the way, smell steaming manure piles, wave at bus drivers, pet cats along the way, talk about favorite songs, giggle, dread tests together, while sharing our morning walk.

It would be so good to give children a chance to socialize before getting into the hectic of their school schedule. Most kids and adolescents communicate via SMS, platforms, chat rooms, and other means of information technology communication. How much oral communication occurs among friends today?

This Italian town, Lecco, which organizes school walks, is setting a wonderful example for getting kids to walk to school by various routes — one even takes them through the cemetery — and we should follow suit. Read the IHT article to learn what volunteers have set up to get kids back on their feet: Students give up wheels for their own two feet.

To plan your own walk to school event, visit: International Walk to School

To get students interested in walking to school, look at WoW for ideas and inspiration.

In the meantime, I will keep walking. I have been doing so for more than 45 years.


  1. Well I sure do understand why kids don’t like walking to school. I mean I have had to deal with it for the past couple years, and it isn’t that fun. I would still prefer using a bike (or something) over a car though.

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