International Walk to School Month is in October each year.
I’m a big believer in walking to school.
- It’s healthy. It gets kids and parents moving, and we’re all aware by now that Americans have a lifestyle that is too sedentary. Too many kids are overweight and obese.
- It puts exercise into the everyday routine. This is a key to creating an active lifestyle.
- It’s a great way to start the day. Exposure to light in the morning helps set your internal clock, and tells your brain that it’s time to wake up. An awakened brain is a brain ready to learn. And getting that blood pumping a little doesn’t hurt either!
- It improves sleep. Exercise and morning light exposure also help with falling asleep at night. So kids who walk to school have an easier time going to bed on time and avoiding sleep deprivation.
- It builds community. On the way to school you pass houses, apartment buildings, businesses, people and pets in your neighborhood. You might run into someone else walking to school and strike up a conversation. You meet your kids’ friends. You get to know your neighborhood better.
- It forms a connection to the natural world. When you dress for the weather and take in the sights, you learn that every day is beautiful in its own way. Walking through rain or snow is not unpleasant if you are dressed for it and keep an open mind.
- It’s time for parents and kids to connect. My child doesn’t talk much, but when we’re moving, like on a bike ride or walk, he tends to open up. Time spent walking with your child is quality time.
- It’s a chance to teach pedestrian safety. The best way for kids to learn how to safely cross the street is to do it repeatedly with adults modeling and explaining.
- It increases safety around the school. At our school in the morning, there are many cars pulling in and out, and dropping off kids. In the rush and confusion, the chance of a tragic accident is always present. Fewer cars around the school creates a safer area.
- It saves gas, and does not cause air pollution. These are worthwhile legacies to leave to our children and can stimulate discussion about the environment and demonstrate our values to them. All those cars, making even that short trip, every day, create a lot of automobile emissions. With asthma rates on the rise, that’s enough to give us pause.
This is the time to start healthy habits for the new school year. Make a commitment to walk to school at least one day a week. You might have to get up a little earlier, but it’s worth it!
Here are some organizations and resources to help you get going and keep going:
- International Walk to School Month is October each year.
- Walk and Bike to School is the USA website for International Walk to School Week events and for promoting safe walking and bicycling to school throughout the year.
- Find a safe route to school.
- How walkable is your community? Find out: Fill out this interactive walkability checklist, or download and print a checklist to bring on your walk.
- National Center for Bicycling and Walking seeks to create bicycle-friendly and walkable communities.
- America Walks is a national resource which fosters walkable communities by engaging, educating, and connecting walking advocates.
- US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
- Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is a national clearinghouse for information about health and safety, engineering, advocacy, education, enforcement, access, and mobility for pedestrians (including transit users) and bicyclists.
- Partnership for a Walkable America is a national coalition working to improve the conditions for walking in America and to increase the number of Americans who walk regularly. The members are national governmental agencies and non-profit organizations concerned about three main areas: Health, Safety and the Environment.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) KidsWalk-to-School is a community-based program that aims to increase opportunities for daily physical activity by encouraging children to walk to and from school in groups accompanied by adults.
- Walking in Michigan: State Fact Sheet (for other states)
- Find out about starting a Walking School Bus in your community.
- For information about the walk to school initiative in Ann Arbor, call Tawny Gapinski at the Ecology Center at 734-995-5888 x111.
~Kyla Boyse, R.N.
Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan
Updated May 2009
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