Walking your child to school may never have crossed your mind, especially if the school isn’t exactly around the corner. But researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are hoping their new study will change your mind, while helping fight childhood obesity.
"Walking school buses are growing in popularity internationally and within the United States."
Dr. Jason Mendoza is assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at Baylor. He got about 150 fourth-graders from low-income families to volunteer to walk a mile to school over the course of a month. These kids were chosen from eight schools in the Houston Independent School District.
Four of these schools were randomly assigned to the walking school bus program and four weren’t. Each student was given an accelerometer, basically a fancy pedometer that measures all types of physical activity. Mendoza found the results for the kids on the program surprising.
"We didn’t know that if we increased their physical activity on the way to and from school, if they would decrease it later on in the day. But it turns out that children in the walking school bus for moderate to vigorous physical activity, there was a relative increase of 7 minutes more per day."
Originally about 24% of this group walked or biked to school anyway, after the program that number rose to 54%.
Meanwhile walking or biking to school for the other group decreased from 40 to 32%.
Mendoza acknowledges that making this a regular feature in schools without help from a third party will be tough. However some parents were so eager for their children to take part, they drove to the designated pick up points. So he says maybe there is hope that programs like this will help fight the obesity problem in Houston and encourage parents to leave those gas guzzlers behind, or at least a little further from the school.
For more information on this study, visit Baylor College of Medicine news.