Once your child is able to follow you around without taking a tumble, it's time to encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle that's full of exciting discoveries. Walking is an endurance activity that has plenty of benefits when it comes to your child's growth.
What benefits do children get from walking?
- Walking is relaxing. It has been recognised that children who walk home from school have better concentration than those who are driven home by car.
- Walking also develops your child's independence. You can get them to choose which direction to take when you reach a fork in your path, and they can take responsibility by doing things like carrying a snack and drink in their backpack.
- Walking is known to improve mood, and when done regularly it can help to develop a positive body image.
- As an endurance activity, walking boosts your cardio fitness. It strengthens the muscles in your heart and lungs.
- It's a good way of helping your child to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the risks, such as obesity, associated with modern sedentary lifestyles.
Children who run around lots in the playground or do an intensive sport will also get all of these benefits. But why not get these advantages from the easiest sport in the world?
How much walking do you need to do with your child in order to benefit from it?
Children are recommended to do one hour of exercise every day. The intensity should vary from moderate to intense. Walking counts as a moderate physical activity but can become more intense if you up the pace.
- Handy tip: one hour of moderate activity for your child is the equivalent of doing between 12 000 and 15 000 steps. This is important for healthy growth, particularly for developing the foot muscles.
Your child will be able to start joining you on your longer walks from the age of 4 or 5 years. But really it boils down to your judgement because their ability to keep up will depend on their personality, habits and fitness.
As well as walking to school, you could go for a 30 minute walk two to three times a week and see how they get on. If you think they can and want to, start going for longer walks of up to one or two hours. Just don't force them into it.
This healthy habit is all down to you. It's important that you develop a routine and make your child want to come with you. You could even try out some of the ideas that we've come up with in our article, "7 tips to encourage your child to walk".