family · fitness · walking

Walking to school won’t help you or your 6 year old lose weight. Do it anyway.

It’s back to school and my social media newsfeed is full of delightful first day of school photos.

Here’s a photo of my very first day of school.

Five year old Sam with pigtails, a black jumper, white shirt and white knee socks. Photo taken in Grand Falls, Newfoundland.

My feed is also full of stories about how best to get the kids to school. And given our times lots of stories pair nostalgic stories of walking and biking to school with current day worries about the rise in childhood obesity. Surely there must be a connection?

But things aren’t that simple. See No Association Between Active Commuting to School, Adiposity, Fitness, and Cognition in Spanish Children: The MOVI‐KIDS Study.

What? Walking to school isn’t always associated with a decrease in childhood obesity?

The study concluded:

Walking to school had no positive impact on adiposity, physical fitness, and cognition in 4‐ to 7‐year‐old children….It would be of interest for future studies to examine the intensity and duration of active commuting to school necessary to provide meaningful benefits for health and cognitive performance.”

I like Yoni Freedhoff’s response to the study. “I don’t need to see “meaningful benefits” to want to continue promoting more movement and play in our children, and if we buy into the need for same, we’ll risk the cessation of programs that don’t prove themselves to provide perhaps broader reaching or more dramatic outcomes than could ever be fairly expected of them.”

To his response I’d like to add: Let’s care about walking to school for reasons other than weight loss. How about nature, community connection, mental and emotional health benefits of walking? As usual my worry, like Yoni Freedhoff’s, is that when weight loss isn’t an outcome people stop doing the thing even if there are lots of other benefits.

3 thoughts on “Walking to school won’t help you or your 6 year old lose weight. Do it anyway.

  1. When I used to live closer to her school than she did, sometimes my niece would get dropped off at my house and I’d walk with her to school. Sometimes for practical reasons (i.e. parents needed childcare a bit earlier than they could drop her off), and sometimes because she wanted to be a kid who walked to school.

    Liked by 1 person

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