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PUBLISHED: 5:24 PM on Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Get steppin' for Walk to School Day
SITKA - Most adults can remember the days of walking to school and chatting with friends and neighbors on their way to class. Few children will share those memories, as now most students ride to school in cars or on buses, even though they may live less than a mile away.

International Walk (or Bike) to School Day is Oct. 8, and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion department and SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program, encourage parents to walk or bike to school with their children that day.

Some of the benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, friendlier communities and better safety awareness.

"Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day," SEARHC Health Educator Doug Osborne said. "It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It's also important to remember to be safe."

More than half of all U.S. elementary schoolchildren (ages 6-11) walked to school in 1970, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Only 15 percent of schoolchildren the same ages walked to school in 2006.

The American Heart Association reports United States children today are less fit than they were a generation ago. Many are showing early signs of cardiovascular risk factors, such as higher blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and physical inactivity.

"International Walk to School Day is a great way to have some fun walking or biking to school," said Grace Brooks, grant manager for the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska Program. "What we want people to know is this is not an all or nothing thing. Make it a habit to walk or bike to school one or two days a week. Parents can park a few blocks from school and the children can walk from there - you don't have to walk from home. Just that little bit of extra activity will go a long way to establishing a life-long habit of physical activity."

For more information on International Walk to School Day, contact Grace Brooks at 966-8865 or Sitka Safe Routes To School Coordinator Chris Bryner at 747-5055.

The Alaska Safe Routes To School program has an online action kit for International Walk (or Bike) To School Day - with sample materials so schools can create their own celebrations at www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/saferoutes/walk/index.shtml. steve.soenksen@alaska.gov.


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