Tuesday, October 15, 2013

International Walk to School Month

by Trent Weir 
Algonquin College Sport Business Management Intern  

October is International Walk to School Month which celebrates the many benefits of active transportation to school. Schools are encouraged to get involved and help promote active transportation to their students by introducing them to the Active & Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program.

Active transportation can include any form of travel that is physically engaging (walking, biking, skateboarding etc.). Increasing the number of children who walk or ride to school has many positive impacts not only for the children but for the community as well.

Benefits of using active transportation to school:
  • Health: Switching to active transportation can add up to 45 minutes of mild to vigorous physical activity to a child’s day.
  • Environment: Cutting down on the number of cars driving to school will significantly reduce pollution. 
  • Education: Physically active children have longer attention spans which allows for improved concentration. It has also been shown that middle school students with healthy hearts and lungs scored better in math and reading
  • Community: Participation in programs like a Walking School Bus or simply commuting to school in groups can help bring a community closer together. 
There are also potential financial savings from increasing the number of people using active transportation. In 2010 the Ontario Ministry of Education spent roughly $800 million on busing kids to school. If more children walk or ride to school that spending could be used to improve other areas of our schools.

Some parents may be hesitant to send their children to school by active transportation because of safety concerns. However, an increase in the number of pedestrians has actually been shown to reduce the amount of crime in a neighbourhood. There are also resources, like Elmer the Safety Elephant, to help teach children how to travel safely through their community.

The ASRTS program has many ideas for activities for International Walk to School Month. These resources can be used by parents, teachers and students to help emphasize to their school or community the importance of active transportation. When it comes to the health and well being of children, encouraging them to walk or bike to school is an easy way to increase their physical activity to ensure they meet the recommended daily amount. It can also help them develop the skills to make healthy choices in the future.

References from the SIRC Collection: 
1. Børrestrad L, Østergaard L, Andersen L, Bere E. Associations Between Active Commuting to School and Objectively Measured Physical Activity. Journal Of Physical Activity & Health. August 2013;10(6):826-832. 
2. Buliung R, Faulkner G, Beesley T, Kennedy J. School Travel Planning: Mobilizing School and Community Resources to Encourage Active School Transportation. Journal Of School Health. November 2011;81(11):704-712. 
3. Curriero F, James N, Pollack K, et al. Exploring Walking Path Quality as a Factor for Urban Elementary School Children’s Active Transport to School. Journal Of Physical Activity & Healh. March 2013;10(3):323-334 
4. Eyler A, Baldwin J, Schmid T, et al. Parental Involvement in Active Transport to School Initiatives: A Multi-Site Case Study. American Journal Of Health Education. May 2008;39(3):138-147. 
5. Hinckson E, Hannah M. B. School Travel Plans: Preliminary Evidence for Changing School-Related Travel Patterns in Elementary School Children. American Journal Of Health Promotion. July 2011;25(6):368-371. 
6. Larouche R, Lloyd M, Knight E, Tremblay M. Relationship Between Active School Transport and Body Mass Index in Grades—4-to-6 Children. Pediatric Exercise Science. August 2011;23(3):322-330. 7. Nelson N, Woods C. Neighborhood Perceptions and Active Commuting to School Among Adolescent Boys and Girls. Journal Of Physical Activity & Health. March 2010; 7(2): 257-266.

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