Walk to School Day is Oct. 10. What are some of the advantages of walking to school? Joe Perno, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, discusses the benefits of walking to and from school and getting exercise every day.
Childhood obesity is on the rise. One of the main reasons is the decreasing amount of exercise children are getting. Walking to school has been replaced with car rides, after-school outdoor activities have been replaced with video games. Walking to and from school is a great way to guarantee some physical activity five days per week.
Some schools promote Walk to School Wednesdays. I encourage anyone who is within walking distance to school to take advantage of such a great opportunity. For those who live a bit farther, a couple times a week drive to school but park a good distance away and walk the remainder. It will benefit both parent and child. The hope is if people walk to school they may be more likely to walk other short distance trips.
Most of our communities have not been designed for walking or biking. Not every community has sidewalks and very few have bike lanes. The streets are full of cars with distracted drivers. Because of these reasons, very few kids are walking to and from school.
This is also a perfect time to remind everyone that the streets will be filled with children going to and from school so please use extra caution in the morning hours and afternoon, especially whenever near a school.
What is the walking school bus?
The idea of the walking school bus is that a large group of children walk together accompanied by a few adults. This large group would likely be safer and more visible to drivers. The group should be led by an adult and “pick up” children along the way so that the group would continue to grow until it reaches the school. An adult bringing up the rear of the “bus” is ideal.
When starting a walking school bus, start small with two or three families and with parents taking turns “driving the bus.” Most likely, other families and children will want to “get on the bus.” Pay attention to the safest route to school using sidewalks and crossing guards.
The same concept can be used with bicycles, also know as a bicycle train. Florida is the perfect place to have a walking school bus or bicycle train since our weather is beautiful all year round.
As we talk about walking to school, it is the perfect time to talk to children about pedestrian safety. What should we be telling them?
Children should always use sidewalks when available. When they are not, they should walk as far away from traffic as possible, always while facing traffic. They should be reminded to watch for cars coming from side streets and driveways. They need to be taught that just because they see a car, the driver doesn’t necessarily see them.
When crossing the street mid-block, they must know to look left, right and then left again and walk when they see no oncoming traffic. If they are crossing at an intersection, just because they have the walk signal doesn’t mean it is clear, they should look to see that it is safe.
Also, as drivers, we need to be aware of children on our streets around school arrival and dismal times.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.