TASMANIAN primary schools will this month receive a kit containing stickers, a poster and information promoting the benefits of regular physical activity ahead of National Walk Safely to School Day on Friday 22 May 2015.
National Walk Safely to School Day is a community initiative that aims to raise awareness of the health, road safety, transport and environmental benefits that regular walking – especially to and from school – can provide for the long term health of Australian children.
The annual event, now in its 16th year, encourages primary school aged children to walk to and from school, not just on Friday 22 May, but every day.
For the Frydman family of West Hobart, exercise is an important part of their daily routine.
Ella Frydman, 10, walks to Lansdowne Crescent Primary School every day with mum Andrea and their dog, Bart.
“We live less than 10 minutes away so it would not make sense to take the car to school, plus it’s a good excuse to get Bart out for his daily walk,” Mrs Frydman said.
“Ella and I chat all the way to school, and the fresh air is great for waking her up and getting her ready for a busy day in grade two.”
Lansdowne Crescent Primary School principal Monique Carter said the school encouraged its students to be active all year round, with a large number of families choosing to commute to school by foot every day.
“We have a really great road crossing system and crossing guard near the school which makes it very safe for children to walk,” Ms Carter said.
“We know the impact walking to school has on increasing higher physical activity throughout the day which is so important for both physical and mental health.
“Walking to school helps children to develop so many skills – especially knowledge of their neighbourhood and road safety skills, and it also improves air quality and reduces congestion on the roads.”
Ms Carter said the school community was very keen for all nearby roads in West Hobart to be as safe as possible for children to cross to maximise the amount of children who can walk safely to and from school every day.
Harold Scruby, chairman and executive officer of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, said that unless teachers, parents, carers and the community supported the event and its objectives, the outlook for Australia’s children was not good.
“The childhood obesity epidemic has reached such critical levels in Australia that one in four children are now overweight or obese,” he said.
“Unless there are significant changes to physical activity and diet, this is expected to reach one in three by 2020.
“Children require at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity – and regular walking is the best exercise for us all.”
Mr Scruby said children were encouraged to lead a more active lifestyle by including a walk at the beginning, during and end of each day.
“Families are also reminded that children under the age of 10 must always hold an adult’s hand when crossing the road,” Mr Scruby said.
For more information about the event, log onto: www.walk.com.au or visit the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nationalwalksafelytoschoolday