By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for the Havre Daily News
It's Walk Our Children to School Week with national Walk Our Children to School Day on Wednesday. What a wonderful way to share the healthy benefits of walking with your child and community.
In the past, walking to school was common practice. Many people have memories of their walk (some even in 2 feet of snow, bare foot, and going up hill both ways) from home to school. It was a wonderful way to get to know their neighborhood and provided time for socializing with friends.
It is estimated in today's generation, however, that only about 10 percent walk to school. The majority are either bused or driven to school by their parents. That is why the National Safety Council, together with the Partnership for a Walkable America, has been sponsoring a national Walk a Child to School Day every fall.
Some of the benefits from walking or biking to school are less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air, and daily exercise. According to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, obesity rates among children have more than doubled in the past 20 years. Children need a variety of physical activities each day. Walking or biking to and from school is a great way to get some of that activity.
The most important thing we have to face is the safety of the children. As parents, neighbors, and the community, there are things that we can do to make walking or biking to school safe. We can:
teach children to cross streets at marked crossings.
provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles.
walk with our children.
slow traffic near schools.
launch a "walking school bus."
A neighborhood walking school bus consists of a group of children who walk designated routes to school together. This works similar to a bus because kids are picked up along the way just as a bus would. This may be a casual walk or adults can schedule to walk with them on certain days. For a complete list of links associated with Walking School Buses, visit www.walkingschoolbus.org.
A walkable community is achievable even if children are unable to walk to school due to where they live. Some things that can be done are taking a walk after school, walking to a park, walking to a friend's house, or running an errand.
Walking works. According to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, the daily dose of exercise is just 30 minutes. Walking just one mile in 20 minutes will burn roughly the same number of calories as:
swimming the breaststroke for nine minutes.
running a mile in 10 minutes.
bicycling for 16 minutes.
playing baseball for 25 minutes.
According to national Walk To School Day organizers, increasing the physical activity of children, teaching safe walking skills, easing traffic and improving the environment around schools cannot be done all in one day. Walking Our Children to School Week can be a wonderful way to kick off long-term programs designed to bring about permanent changes.
For more information on this and other prevention activities, contact the HELP Committee at 265-6206. To find out who in Montana is working to promote physical activity and might be a partner in launching Walk to School activities, visit : apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DNPAProg/.