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Students encouraged to get to school under their own steam

Spring conditions were just the thing last week as the Region of Waterloo hosted a spring walk to school day to promote the importance of children walking to and from school.

An active transportation charter was passed last May by both the public and Catholic school boards in the region, with an emphasis on walking to school throughout the year. Many schools have participated in international walk to school week, winter walk and the spring walk.

“Spring is a great time for children to get out in their spring clothes. If they have skateboards or bicycles they might want to bring out those pieces of equipment that have been in hibernation since the winter and make sure everything is in proper working condition and enjoy the outdoors,” said Ruth Dyck, public health nurse for the region.

Walking is healthy and contributes to the daily physical activity requirements. According to the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, children aged five to 11 years old need a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

“It is a healthy activity and we know that active students are more alert and ready to learn,” she said. “The more daily physical activity students can get the greater health benefits they will have.”

Walking to school has some environmental benefits as well, added Dyck, as no emissions are produced, unlike riding in a car. The students will also learn about their local environment while walking to school at the same time building a sense of independence.

The walk to school day is an activity of Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS), a comprehensive program that promotes safe, walkable communities. The focus behind the program is to engage both the schools and communities to work together to make safe walking routes a reality for children. The student led walking school bus is also promoted by ASRTS.

“We encourage kids to get out there, it is spring time. We want students to walk with friends and use the walking school bus rather than have parents driving. Kids walking together builds relationships and creates friendships through talking, laughter and the sense of exploring,” said Dyck.

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