MORE than 80 per cent of NSW children do not get enough daily exercise, but making walking, riding or scooting to school safer could boost their physical activity and improve obesity rates, the Heart Foundation says.
The Foundation is lobbying for pedestrian infrastructure improvements around schools, after research it commissioned found that on average, for less than $450,000 per school, key routes in catchment areas could be easily upgraded to make walking to school safer, easier and more appealing to children and their families.
“Creating more walkable school precincts through targeted urban design need not be a complicated or overly expensive exercise,” NSW Heart Foundation chief executive, Kerry Doyle, said.
“The state government is currently investing in NSW travel infrastructure, building roads and improving public transport. “We’ve done the sums and for a relatively low cost, active travel can be made safer, easier and more attractive, encouraging families to pursue this option rather than jumping in the car for the short ride to and from school.”
Related: $4 million for active transport
Ms Doyle said with one-in-five NSW primary-school children, and one-in-four high schoolers considered overweight or obese, the infrastructure improvements proposed could have knock-on, long term benefits for the health system, as well as create safer roads and less traffic congestion. Newcastle High was one of three NSW schools used as a case study to explore the costs and benefits of improving pedestrian infrastructure.
Currently, 19 per cent of NSW school children reach the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to The Heart Foundation.