Car exclusion zones should be set up around schools to make families walk as part of a bid to tackle obesity and climate change, a report suggested today.
Banning vehicles from the vicinity of schools could help reverse the dramatic decline in walking seen in the UK in recent decades, the Institute for European Environmental Policy said.
Currently 38 per cent of all journeys under two miles – which could be covered by up to 30 minutes brisk walking – are taken by car, adding to the ‘twin crises’ of obesity and climate change, the report warned.
If a typical British adult were to walk just one hour more a week – returning to the average walked by people without cars – it would prevent them gaining two stones over a decade and make a major contribution to halting the obesity crisis.
And the extra walking could reduce CO2 emissions from cars by 11 million tonnes, or 15.4 per cent, the research said.
Taking children to school, especially at primary level, is an activity which takes place within the local area and could be carried out on foot, the institute said. It would benefit both children and their parents.
In 1989, adults drove an average of 55 miles for the school run, but that had increased to 82 miles by 2005.
The IEEP report warned changing behaviour would be a large scale effort costing millions of pounds, but a first step could be banning cars from schools or local shops and other facilities where people routinely drive.
The effort would be cheaper than dealing with the cost to the NHS and society of the obesity crisis and climate change, the IEEP’s Unfit for Purpose report said.
Britain has one of the fastest growing rates of obesity in the world, with more than 23.6 per cent of men and 23.8 per cent of women having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more in 2006.
Rise of car ownership since the early 1960s has been matched by a decline in walking and cycling.
The report’s lead author, Dr Adrian Davis said: ‘The substitution of car use for walking is a major contributor to the steep rise in obesity, as walking is the most obvious way for most people to burn calories.
‘A small daily reduction in walking over a decade or more has a profound and damaging impact on body weight.’
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