Next week, students, teachers, parents and community members in Oklahoma City will be lacing up their walking shoes to join schools from around the world to celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 3, 2012. Across the U.S., children and adults will be participating in Walk to School Day events at more than 4,000 schools. They’ll join participants from 40 countries where schools are also holding Walk to School events.
Years ago, most children walked to school, but these days the majority arrive by bus or car and walking is no longer part of the daily routine. That’s one of the lifestyle changes that puts more children at risk of becoming overweight or obese, says Chrystal Hedges, Health at School program supervisor at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD). As part of the Wellness Now community health improvement initiative, Health at School is helping to organize Walk to School Day events.
Hedges says Walk to School Day helps to raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment. The events also build connections between families, schools and the broader community.
“We’re hoping to use Walk to School Day to jump-start programs that will encourage children to walk, bicycle or get other exercise on a regular basis,” Hedges says. “Childhood obesity has been increasing at an alarming rate and boosting levels of physical activity is important in reversing that trend.”
The goals of International Walk to School Day include:
- Physical activity
- Teaching safe walking skills to children
- Awareness of how walkable a community is and where improvements can be made
- Concern for the environment
- Reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and speed near schools
- Taking back neighborhoods for people on foot
- Sharing time with community leaders, parents, principals, teachers, and children
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