October is International Walk to School Month – an annual celebration of ‘active transportation’ and kids here in Lacombe are encouraged to get onboard with the initiative.
Officials point out that the City of Lacombe is a ChooseWell community which encourages its residents to eat right and be active. International Walk to School Month fits right in with that, said Sonya Beauclair with the City of Lacombe.
”One of the many activities we host each year is International Walk to School Week, where we encourage kids to walk or ride (bikes or rollerblades) to school,” she said.
”We encourage students to register at the City of Lacombe by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered for a chance to win some great prizes just for walking to school.
“As a ChooseWell community, this is one of the initiatives we like to run every year to try and get the kids walking to school. There is an International Walk to School web site, but we do this under ChooseWell, which itself is a program under the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association which encourages healthy living and active living,” she explained.
“That can mean almost anything we can choose to do in our communities,” she added, referring to a number of programs aimed at bolstering physical activity. “Over time, they’ve had different challenges,” she said.
Examples have included ‘21 days to Healthy Eating’ held in September. “When they discontinued that, we turned it into Operation Lunchbox, to try and get people packing healthier lunches,” she said, adding that particular initiative just wrapped up last month.
Meanwhile, International Walk to School Month has a simple but compelling goal – to make walking, cycling, and other forms of active, safe and sustainable transportation the norm for trips to and from school, noted a release.
In 1997, Walk our Children to School Day was launched in Chicago by the Partnership for a Walkable America.
Canada held its first national Walk a Child to School Day in 1998 with participants from five provinces.
In 2000, the first International Walk to School Day officially began and currently schools from all provinces and territories join millions of students all over the world as they walk to school.
Participating countries include Canada, the United States, Mexico, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, India, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
To learn more about the international event visit www.saferoutestoschool.ca/international-walk-to-school-month.
Beauclair said there are reams of benefits to everyone from leading more active lifestyles. These benefits also affect kids, too, from helping to reduce anxiety in children besides just bettering their overall health.
Beauclair pointed out that it’s recommended that children take part in 60 minutes of activity each day.
“That’s moderate to vigorous activity every day,” she said, adding this is also linked to lower body mass index and improved cardiovascular health. Physical activity also supports healthy brain development, which can lead to improved learning and academic outcomes.
Mental health benefits include, as mentioned, reduced stress, depression and anxiety, and increased happiness.