Scottish Government statistics on children’s physical activity reveals almost 9 out 10 of children do not meet the government’s physical activity guidelines. Only 11% of children surveyed by the ‘Growing Up in Scotland’ study met the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day. Meanwhile, the latest ‘Hands Up Scotland’ survey shows that less than half of children travel actively to school with only 3.6% cycling to school.
The data has led to sustainable travel charity Sustrans to call for more funding and work to spread awarenss of walking and cycling as a means of getting to and from school.
A Sustrans spokesman said: “These regular journeys are key in helping more children to live physically active, healthier lives. Increasing the number of pupils cycling to school would provide children with the moderate intensity of exercise required every day.
“Walking or cycling to school is an easy way to get regular exercise, and even if it doesn’t meet the 60-minute daily target, it would have a major impact and help some to meet the goal. There are also co-benefits through the reduction in air pollution, less congestion around schools and children are more attentive in class and get better grades.”
Sustrans Scotland’s ‘I Bike’ project works in schools to help young people to cycle, and has been successful in increasing regular cycling. In I Bike schools 11% of pupils report ‘regularly’ cycling, compared to the 3.6% average.
“The study also found that on average boys were doing 10 minutes more physical activity than girls every day. I Bike seeks to bridge the gender gap that sees far fewer girls than boys cycling to school, because cycling should be something that everyone can do. But the second thing that an increase in cycling to school requires is safer-routes, which would make more people feel able to cycle.
“One thing that Sustrans Scotland know would make a big difference to people feeling safer on a bike is slower traffic speeds. Currently a consultation is under way into making 20mph speed limits in residential areas the default limit,” the spokesman noted.
Sustrans said there was also a need for more funding to enable local authorities to deliver safe cycling routes, segregated from traffic where needed, to give people confidence and make cycling the easy choice.
When cycling is an easy choice for everyone to make their regular, day-to-day journeys we will see many more children living active, healthier lives, the charity added.
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