Children around the globe walk toward a lifetime of healthy habits
CHAPEL HILL -- On Wednesday, October 3, schoolchildren from all 50 states will join thousands across the world who are making the commitment to lead healthier lifestyles by walking or bicycling to school on International Walk to School Day.
"We're seeing encouraging evidence that more and more schools are holding Walk to School Day events as catalysts to getting kids up and active all year long," said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
Walking and bicycling to school can benefit children in a variety of ways. A number of parents and teachers have commented that children arrive more alert and ready for the day when they walk to school. Public health officials have pointed to physical activity and safe places to walk and bicycle as factors in curbing the obesity epidemic among America's youth.
In addition to physical activity, Walk to School programs emphasize the importance of other issues such as pedestrian safety, traffic congestion surrounding schools and concern for the environment.
"It is an energizing event, reminding everyone of the simple joy of walking to school, the health benefits of regular daily activity and the need for safe places to walk and bike. The idea is to walk to school together with a purpose - to promote health, safety, physical activity, a sense of community and concern for the environment," added Marchetti.
The 2007 event marks the 11th International Walk to School Day. The event began in the U.S. with one school in Chicago in 1997 and has grown to more than 5,000 schools in the U.S. Worldwide, this year an estimated 4 million families and community leaders will participate in 42 countries.
Many Walk to School events are conducted as part of Safe Routes to School programs - sustained, community efforts to improve the health and well-being of children by making walking and bicycling to school safer, easier and more enjoyable.
In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a national Safe Routes to School program. The program dedicates a total of $612 million towards Safe Routes from 2005 to 2009.
Established in May 2006 with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The Center strives to equip Safe Routes to School programs with the knowledge and technical information to implement safe and successful strategies. The Center serves as the coordinating agency for Walk to School activities in the U.S.
To view the names of registered schools participating in Walk to School Day in the U.S. , please visit http://www.walktoschool.org/who/index.cfm
For a complete list of participating countries, please visit http://www.iwalktoschool.org/whoswalking. For past photos of Walk to School activities from around the world, please visit http://www.iwalktoschool.org/photos/index.htm.
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UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Jennifer Bonchak (919) 843-4859