School run? Cycling to class is more fun
FEWER than one in 10 (9 per cent) of UK parents, and 8 per cent of those interviewed in the North West say their children and young people get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, new figures show.
A YouGov poll, carried out on behalf of Sustrans, UK walking and cycling charity, surveyed 1,370 parents of 5 to 16-yearolds throughout the UK (of which 145 were in the North West) about their children’s daily levels of physical activity.
About one in five (19pc) of those surveyed in the UK said their child took part in 60 minutes of physical activity a day two days a week, while 13pc said their children did so one day a week or less.
Sustrans released the survey as double Olympic champion Joanna Rowsell Shand came to Greater Manchester to launch The Big Pedal 2017, the UK’s biggest challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school.
The Big Pedal 2017, which runs from Monday, March 20, to Friday, March 31, will see more than 1,560 schools across the UK leave their cars at home and get on their bikes and scooters for their journeys to and from school.
Walking, scooting or cycling to school would help children get their recommended hour of physical activity a day and maintain a healthy weight.
Joanna Rowsell Shand, who is supporting The Big Pedal for the second year running, said: “Now more than ever we need to see more children walking, scooting or cycling to school.
“Not only is cycling great for young people’s health, it also builds confidence and independence and I’ve got lots of happy memories of cycling to school when I was a kid.
“The safer and more comfortable children feel on their bikes, the more they will enjoy it and the more likely they are to continue to cycle throughout their lives.”
Parents cited the need for improved infrastructure, such as wider pavements and better crossings, and enhanced road safety among their top priorities before allowing their child to walk, scoot or cycle to school.
Sustrans says schools and local authorities in England could use the money from a levy on soft drinks to help more children walk, scoot and cycle the school journey.
The charity would like to see governments elsewhere in the UK commit additional funding from the soft drinks levy to support active travel.
Rosslyn Colderley, Sustrans England North director, said: “The average primary school journey is 1.6 miles - a distance that can be walked, scooted or cycled as an easy way of building more physical activity into our busy lives.
“This is a great opportunity for schools to use some of the funding from the doubled School Sport Premium and the Healthy Pupils’ Capital Programme derived from the sugar tax to boost levels of active travel on the school journey.
“Local authorities need to play their part too and invest in safer and better infrastructure if we want to reduce the high levels of inactivity of our children.”
Ashley Cooper, Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health at the University of Bristol, said: “Sadly, it isn’t a surprise to see low numbers of children in the UK meeting the physical activity guidelines.
“These findings point out however that some parents are recognising the impact of sedentary lifestyle on their children and we need to build on this awareness.
“There is now a wealth of research evidence that tells us that walking or cycling to school are important for young people’s physical activity and health.
“Walking or cycling to and from school contributes up to a third of children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity, helping them to meet health guidelines, and children who cycle to school are fitter and healthier than those who don’t.”
Jo Rowsell Shand with children at Cale Green Primary School