YEAR five student Jade Marley knows the importance of regular exercise.
Setting herself the task of reaching 5000 steps every single day, which she monitors by the activity setting on her watch, Jade says regularly walking to school at St Mary’s College has been a big part of helping her achieve that goal.
“It’s handy because I’m not late to school and dad likes not having to try and find a park,” she said.
“I have some friends who live close to school as well and sometimes we all walk together.
“My favourite part is the fresh air and seeing the sun every morning.”
Jade will be among the many St Mary’s College students to hit the pavement on Friday 17 May for National Walk Safely to School Day.
National Walk Safely to School Day is a community initiative that raises awareness of the health, road safety, transport and environmental benefits that regular walking – especially to and from school – can provide for the long-term wellbeing of children.
The annual event, which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, encourages primary school-aged children to build walking into their daily routine by walking to and from school, not just on Friday 17 May, but every day.
St Mary’s College deputy principal Jacqueline Conboy said as a Move Well Eat Well school, which promoted physical activity and healthy eating as part of everyday life, St Mary’s College was a strong supporter of National Walk Safely to School Day.
“Due to large distances, many of our students catch buses into the city centre to cover most of their daily journey, but a great benefit of the College’s CBD location is that it encourages students to include a short walk to and from school in their daily routine,” she said.
“In addition to Health and Physical Education classes, the Junior School encourages physical activity every day with block walks, aerobics and daily PE sessions led by our year six students.
“The College also makes an effort to hold events promoting healthy food and physical activity outdoors like Stride and Ride and Nude Food days.”
Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman and chief executive officer Harold Scruby said physical inactivity was a major risk factor for so many chronic diseases that could affect children at different stages of their life, including mental illness, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
“Primary school-aged children across Australia, it’s time to get walking,” he said.
“One in four children in Australia are overweight or obese and it is expected that numbers will reach one in three by next year.
“We really need teachers, parents, carers and the community at large to get behind this event and its objectives – the best exercise for all of us is regular walking.
“Children require at least 60 minutes huff and puff physical activity every day.
“We should encourage them to include walking at the beginning, during and end of each day – if you can’t walk all the way, use public transport and get off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to school.”
National Walk Safely to School Day also encourages parents and carers to walk more, reducing dangerous traffic congestion around schools, better use of public transport with reduced car-dependency and the vitally important road safety message: “Until they are 10, children must always hold the hand of an adult when crossing the road.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, schools are also encouraged to host a free healthy breakfast on Friday 17 May in conjunction with their local supermarket or greengrocer.
For more information about how to get involved on Walk Safely to School Day, visit www.walk.com.au.
For a guide to hosting a healthy breakfast, visit www.walk.com.au/WSTSD/host-a-healthy-breakfast.asp.
Caption: St Mary’s College students, from left, Chloe Davis, Jade Marley, Maddison Lamb, Tehya Casti, Sophie Kelly and Casey Lam.