By Kerry Crisley, The Nature Conservancy
So shouts my seven-year old, Erin, as she skips down our street, stopping to collect a leaf that’s the perfect shade of orange. My nine-year old son Ben is behind me, hunched over and walking on his toes. He’s making his own dinosaur costume out of cardboard for Halloween this year and he’s practicing his “spinosaurus walk.”
We’re walking to school on a gorgeous fall morning, an activity we’ve made a fixture in our daily routine. It just so happens that Wednesday, October 9th is National Walk to School Day, but I’m not waiting until then to start.
What finally got me committed to walking? The Danish.
Not the pastry, but a Danish study released last year showing that how a student travels to school has more impact on concentration and focus than whether they had breakfast. According to the results, “the most important meal of the day” pales in comparison to fresh air and exercise.
The study, called Mass Experiment 2012, surveyed nearly 20,000 Danish students ages five to 19. The kids who walked (or biked) to school, rather than being driven or taking public transportation, performed noticeably better on tasks requiring concentration, such as solving puzzles. And this effect stayed with them for the rest of the morning.
The author of the study, Professor Niels Egelund, noted that “as a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies.”
That was enough to convince me that walking was better, but let’s be honest: this isn’t The Brady Bunch. There’s no Alice helping me fix breakfast and pack lunches, and unlike Carol I still spend far too much time repeatedly asking my kids to get dressed, put on shoes and find their backpacks. Meanwhile, I have my own workday to prepare for. Where was I going to find 15 more minutes to walk?
Photo courtesy of Kerry Crisley (Erin and Ben on the first day of school – ready to walk.)
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