New research published today in the British Medical Journal reports walking to school doesn't have a major affect on overall physical activity in children.
The proportion of children traveling to school by car in the United Kingdom almost doubled from 16% in 1986 to 30% in 1998. Not walking to school is perceived as a compromise to physical activity.
The study involved 154 boys and 121 girls in their first year at 53 urban primary schools. The children wore monitors during waking hours for five consecutive schooldays and a weekend to measure physical activity. Height, weight, and body fat were also recorded.
Twice as many boys and girls walked to school as were driven by car. The average time taken to walk to school was six minutes and the average distance was 0.7km.
Although children who walked to and from school recorded more activity in the process, their total weekly activity was identical to non-walkers. Crucially, the additional activity recorded by walkers during the school journey was only 2% of the children's total weekly activity, say the authors.
There may be other benefits from walking children to their neighborhood school, but physical activity does not appear to be one of them, they conclude.