Written by Margaux Mennesson, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
Thousands of kids, families and school staff are getting out of their cars and walking to school on October 7, 2015 to celebrate International Walk to School Day, a worldwide event that takes place on the first Wednesday of October each year. The growing enthusiasm for Walk to School Day is just one marker of rising demand for walking and walkability in local communities and schools across the country.
Walking is one of the best things kids can do for their health, emotional well-being, and academic success. Yet between 1969 and 2009, the number of kids walking to school dropped from 48 percent to just 13 percent. During the same time period, childhood obesity tripled and traffic congestion grew around schools, negatively affecting air quality and snarling nearly everyone’s morning commute.
In 2005, efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to reverse the decline in walking and bicycling coalesced with the birth of the federal Safe Routes to School program. While the federal program has evolved, the movement for safe, walkable schools and neighborhoods is stronger than ever as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Safe Routes to School in 2015.
Just this September, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a call to action for Americans to work together to make our communities more walkable for people of all ages and abilities. “Walking is one of the most powerful tools we have to increase physical activity and emotional well-being for kids,” said Dr. Murthy when he visited Myrtle Tate Elementary School in Las Vegas to raise awareness about walking to school.
Why? Walking is one of the simplest, most effective, and most affordable strategies for kids AND adults to build physical activity into their lives. Walking one mile each way to and from school translates to 2/3 of the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. And the benefits of walking extend beyond health. Studies show that active kids do better. Research has shown that there are links between physical activity and academic achievement.
If you’re inspired to walk or bicycle with your child to school, here are some ideas to make sure your family can be physically active and stay safe.
Check out the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s resources on safe bicycling and safe walking. These fact sheets include tips on where to walk and bike, how to be seen, and how to have fun while walking and bicycling safely.
Host or join a Walk to School Day event at your school. Hosting a Walk to School Day event helps showcase demand for walking and bicycling to officials and the wider community.
For more information about walking to school and Safe Routes to School, visit our website: saferoutespartnership.org.
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Prescription from the nation’s doctor: #walk to school! @SafeRoutesNow has tips: odphp.tumblr.com