By Tracy Zaslow, MD, Medical Director, Jackie and Gene Autry Orthopedic CenterSports Medicine and Concussion Programs.
School has begun, leaves are changing (even in Southern California), and that means its “WalkTober”—time to get walking! October signals the call to parents, teachers and students to join in the internationally-recognized awareness month to encourage communities to develop sustainable “walk to school” programs to help kids get active and walk to school safely.
Communities Promote Walking
Communities all around Southern California are coming together to get out and improve their health. Schools all around Los Angeles, from Pacific Palisades and Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles, have begun participating in the Walk-to-School program. Additionally, in the South Bay cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, a health-based initiative has begun to improve residents’ exercise and dietary habits. One of the programs they have implemented is the “walking school bus.”
What is a Walking School Bus?
A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one adult or more supervising. It’s like a carpool—without the car—with the added benefits of exercise and visits with friends and neighbors. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school to as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.
- It’s fun! Exchange the dullness of the traffic-laden drive to school with the exciting adventure of a family walk.The Entire Family Earns an A+ by Walking to School
- It’s a great way to spend time together! You and your child can share new experiences and see all that your community has to offer—Notice the big tall tree or caterpillar crawling across the leafy plant, pet the neighbor’s dog, see friends and meet new ones.
- It’s healthy! Walking (or biking) to school is an easy way to help your child work towards the recommended goal of one hour of physical activity a day, not to mention that it helps your child form healthy habits. Daily exercise helps build strong bones and decreases the risk of obesity and the obesity-associated problems including stroke, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
- It’s eco-friendly! Leaving your car at home means less pollutants and traffic in your community.
- It’s economical! Walking to school means you and your child burn calories instead of gasoline and that can mean big savings at the pump.
- It’s educational! While walking, or biking to school, it’s a great time to reinforce pedestrian safety. It’s the perfect opportunity to teach your child to cross at marked cross walks. Always look both ways and, if using wheels (bike, roller-blades, scooter, skateboard, etc.) to get to school, always wear a helmet.
While I often hear, “Nobody walks in L.A.,” it’s not true anymore. It’s easy to start walking, just take one step at a time in this new routine. One family can inspire the whole community—you can be that family.
Simple Steps to Get Your Family Walking
- Pick one day a week and get the entire family excited about a morning stroll to school.
- Grab a neighbor. Is there a neighbor you see every morning going on the same route to school? Invite them to walk along with you.
- Talk to your child’s school principal to encourage the school to promote walking.
- Research a safe walking route, which you can also find online at SafeRoutesInfo.org.
- Make a list of how much activity your child gets per day. Do they get at least one hour? If not, walking to school is a fun and easy way to increase their activity.
The Walking School Bus
Walk to School Day