ON National Ride to School Day, the National Heat Foundation is calling on Aussie schoolkids to move more and sit less, with new international research demonstrating the benefits of cycling and walking to school.
Chair of the Foundations’ National Physical Activity Committee (NPAC), Professor Jo Salmon, said an innovative school travel program in Northern Ireland has not only increased the number of children cycling and walking to school but also helped reduce transport costs.
“It is fitting on National Ride to School Day, we highlight the remarkable success of Northern Ireland’s Active School Travel Program and the positive example it sets for us here in Australia,” Professor Salmon said.
“The program aims to assist more children to walk and cycle to school safely rather than rely on a lift from their parents.
“After just one year, the number of children being driven to school fell from 53 per cent to 45 per cent, while the number walking and cycling to school increased by an impressive 16 per cent.
“In turn, this not only contributed to reducing overall fuel consumption but also helped reduce congestion, lower carbon emissions and improve road safety around schools.”
Director, Cardiovascular Health at the Heart Foundation, Trevor Shilton, said the Northern Ireland program sets an important precedent for Australia.
“We know a great deal about the health benefits of physical activity, however now we have credible international research that demonstrates the broader economic, environmental and cost benefits associated with active travel,” Mr Shilton said.
“It’s important that children become increasingly physically active and anything that also helps alleviate cost pressures on families while improving environmental outcomes is an added bonus.
A survey of Northern Ireland schools involved in the program found 90% of teachers regarded it as having a good or excellent impact on children’s levels of physical activity.
General Manager, Advocacy at the Heart Foundation, Rohan Greenland, said a local version of the Active School Travel Program should form part of a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Strategy.
“With 8 in every 10 Australian children failing to meet national physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day, and only around one in four walking or cycling to school, then the need for action becomes all too clear,” Mr Greenland said.
“Within the framework of a comprehensive, nationally-funded National Physical Activity Strategy, we will have the opportunity to do so for the benefit of all school-age Australian children and their families.”
“On National Ride to School Day, the message couldn’t be clearer – we need to get our kids moving more and sitting less sooner rather than later.”
Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.