James Roemmich, MD, PhD and his research team looked at 40 children in good health who were not presently walking to school on a regular basis. They had half of their subjects walk on a treadmill for just under a mile, carrying a backpack that was about 10% of their body weight. The other subjects sat in a chair. Both groups looked at screens that showed a pleasant view of sites one would see while walking to school.
As reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the short term results were clear; cardiac stress was less in those students who walked, as compared to those who sat, measured by blood pressure, perceived stress, and heart and pulse reactivity.
What is less certain is how long the stress reduction will last during the school day and what the long term effects into adulthood will be for students who regularly walk to school. But in the meantime, while researchers follow up on these preliminary results, parents might do well to forgo the car pool where walking to school is practical. And, as with many things, you can always tell your child, "It's for your own good..."
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