London: Children who walk to school daily
are less likely to suffer from heart problems and high blood
pressure later in life, a new study has claimed.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo also found
that the practice is also an effective measure to reduce
stress in children during the school day.
Lead researcher Professor James Roemmich said: "The
cardiovascular disease process begins in childhood, so if we
can find some way of stopping or slowing that process, that
would provide an important health benefit.
"We know that physical activity has a protective
effect on the development of cardiovascular disease, and one
way it may be doing so is by reducing stress reactivity," Prof
Roemmich was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
For their study, Professor Roemmich and his team
looked at a group of 20 boys and 20 girls aged 10 to 14.
Half of them were seated in chairs and watched a
10-minute slide show of images of a residential area ending
with an image of a school.
The other half performed a one-mile walk on a
treadmill at a self-selected pace, wearing a book bag
containing 10 per cent of their body weight. As they walked,
the images of a neighbourhood were projected onto a screen.
Following a 20-minute rest period all the children
took a Stroop test, which asks subjects to correctly identify
the colour of colour names printed in the wrong hue.
On average, during this activity, heart rate increased
by about three beats per minute in children who walked,
compared with about 11 beats per minute in children who `rode`
to school. Blood pressure and stress levels were similarly
"The perception of a stressor as a threat is the
beginning of the stress reactivity process, so if you can
dampen that initial perception, then you reduce the magnitude
of the fight-or-flight response," Professor Roemmich said.
"This results in lower heart rate and blood pressure
responses to the stressor. Exercise helped dampen even the
Professor Roemmich said because it`s not known how
long the protective effect of a bout of exercise lasts,
parents and educators should promote active play time
throughout the day.
The study, published in the Medicine & Science in
Sports & Exercise, was also hailed by experts who advocate for
more physical work for children to avoid growing obesity.
Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets,
said: "This new research is more ammunition for what we have
been saying all along- walking really does work.
"Walking is one of the greenest, cheapest forms of
exercise you can do and not only can it impact your physical
health, it is good for children’s learning.
"Previous research from the Department for Transport
found that 9 out of 10 teachers reported that children who
walk to school are more alert and ready to work once they
reach the classroom."