#WellnessWeds: National Walk to School Day Highlights Increasingly Rare But Healthy Habit

Today is a pretty special day to me, one that I wish could be repeated 180 times per year. Oct. 5 is National Walk to School Day, a day devoted to encouraging students to walk (or ride their bike) to school and allow them to realize how much fun it is to exercise daily — and hopefully cause them to begin this healthy habit.  Yes, this one special day could be the first step — literally — towards a healthier future for the children in your life. And for you, too.

I highly encourage you to walk with your children to school today; this day isn’t just for students, it’s for parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers and whoever else is involved in the life of a child. It is an international event that I suggest you participate in because it’s fun, free, improves your health and everyone will be doing it!

Make Sure It’s Safe

I think it’s great that National Walk to School Day promotes safe walking, because as a parent, I can tell you that the very first thought that comes to my mind when it is suggested that children walk to school is “How safe is it?”

I’m an adult, and I love to walk everywhere, but there are some places where I feel much safer walking than others. If there is a sidewalk to walk along I feel safe. But if I am walking along a busy road, understandably I just don’t feel as safe.

I wonder: Is that why the amount of children who walk or bike to school is only around 12 to 13 percent? It used to be a much higher percentage years ago. I feel that the safety of our children is a big concern these days. In fact, this year’s Michigan Walk to School Day theme is “Let’s Move Together,” and there is a choreographed, pedestrian-safety theme song to help encourage students to stay safe.

Now I’m not saying that our safety wasn’t a concern in the late 1960s, when approximately 48 percent of children walked or biked to school. In fact, my mom was very concerned about my safety — in the 1970s, anyway. But I guess we didn’t continually hear about all the possible hazards. Biking or walking to where we needed to be was just what we did… and we made sure to be safe about it. We respected the rules of the road and abided by them. That hasn’t changed with today’s children, has it?

Getting Back Outside

I know that in the early ’70s, kids were much healthier than today’s children and the obesity levels were much, much lower. Walking and biking to school was common practice. The bike racks in the school yards were full to capacity back then.

I actually remember that staying indoors was dull and playing outdoors was the thing. I remember kids everywhere bicycling, running, playing a game of tag, baseball or maybe touch football, or simply shooting hoops, and of course, walking a mile or two because you wanted to visit a friend. We loved to use roller skates, skateboards, swing-sets, playing hopscotch, climbing the jungle gym and jumping rope daily.  School children had fun outdoors and loved to exercise. I think it’s time for playing outdoors to be “the thing” once again!

We are at that point when we ALL need to make some changes in our habits and bring back activities from past decades. Let’s each do our part to make playing and walking or bicycling to school “the thing” for the next generation … our children’s generation.

Their good health is just as important as their safety — they really just go together!

Did you walk to school as a child? Share a fun story about it below. Or if you didn’t walk to school, or your kids don’t today, why not? What keeps them from walking each day?

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Photo credit: Ivy Dawned

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