Cycling to school keeps your team healthy, says Olympic star Joanna Rowsell Shand

Medal winner: Joanna Rowsell Shand launches the Big Pedal challenge to get pupils cycling and scooting to school

Olympic champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand today urged parents to do more to encourage their children to exercise.

The Londoner spoke out as research revealed that most youngsters do not get enough time running around to burn off the calories they consume.

According to government guidelines those aged five to 18 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day “to maintain a basic level of health”.

Rowsell Shand, 28, from Sutton, announced her retirement from international cycling last week, having won team pursuit gold at London 2012 and in Rio last year, and been a five-time world and four-time European champion. She said: “Now more than ever we need to see more children walking, scooting or cycling to school.

“Not only is cycling great for young people’s health, it also builds confidence and independence, and I’ve got lots of happy memories of cycling to school when I was a kid.”

But a survey for walking and cycling charity Sustrans found just nine per cent of respondents said their son or daughter did an hour of exercise daily. Thirteen per cent were concerned that their child was overweight, and nine per cent had seen a doctor about their worries. The survey was released to launch The Big Pedal 2017, a week-long challenge to get more children cycling and scooting to school.

Sustrans said the proportion who did so remained “stubbornly low” at two per cent. Xavier Brice, the charity’s chief executive, said some of the money raised from a tax on soft drinks should be used to help children walk, scoot or cycle to school. The YouGov poll for Sustrans surveyed 1,370 UK parents of five to 16-year-olds — including 180 from London — about their children’s daily levels of physical activity.

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