Convoys of kids could be seen on footpaths around schools across Pakenham and Officer today as National Walk Safely to School Day kicked off.
The annual event 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 well-being of children including on their cognitive and academic performance.
The day also encourages primary school aged children to build walking into their daily routine, by walking to and from school every day.
Harold Scruby, chairman and CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Australia said that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases that can affect kids at different stages of their life, including mental illness, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
“One in four children in Australia is overweight or obese, and it is expected that numbers will reach one in three by next year,” he said.
“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, train, tram or ferry a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to school.”
The day also encourages parents and carers to walk more, reducing dangerous traffic congestion around schools and encouraging better use of public transport with reduced car-dependency, and supports a vitally important road safety message: “Until they are 10, children must always hold the hand of an adult when crossing the road,” Mr Scruby said.