“When I was young, I walked to school five miles everyday, uphill both ways.” That is one of the most well-known, clichéd phrases in our society. It is generally accompanied by rolled eyes and some equivalent of, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” However, despite the gross exaggeration, it could, in part, be true. Forty years ago, half of all students relied on their feet to get to school, either walking or biking. Today that number has dwindled to a mere 15 percent. The vast majority of children are bussed or privately driven to and from school. This has increased traffic congestion, traffic accidents, air pollution and the sedentary lives of students.
Obesity rates have risen and continue to rise dramatically. Children are more likely than ever to develop diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. They are not exercising on a regular basis and have limited knowledge as to how they can or why they should change this. Something needs to be done to help promote daily activity in America’s youth. In recognition of this, local communities, state governments and the federal government have begun promoting walking to school. In 2005, Congress set aside $32 million, to be used over five years, for the development of safe, pedestrian-friendly routes to school. The CDC created “KidsWalk-to-School,” a program designed to encourage exactly what the title says, kids walking to school. More and more people are embracing the concept and working together to make walking to school possible. You can too.
October 3 is International Walk to School Day in the United States. You can take part by organizing, within your community, a walk-to-school event. The event itself can consist solely of an early morning stroll from home to the schoolyard or can be a little more elaborate. If you’re school is too far away, the Partnership for a Walkable America suggests designating a closer meeting area and walking from there. Or, you could organize a lunch-time walk around campus (this will also work if you have concerns about neighborhood safety). For more information, visit http://www.walktoschool-usa.org/ (for those of you in Canada, check out http://www.iwalktoschool.org/).
Put a little more activity in your child’s day (and yours too!). Walk or bike with them to school. Teach them now about the importance of regular exercise. They’ll carry it with them into adulthood and be happier and healthier because of it.