Walking to School in the Richmond Region
On October 8th kids all over the country experienced the joy of walking or biking to school! In the Richmond region alone there were at least 28 schools that participated in the National Walk to School Day festivities. The overarching theme of this national event is to expose students and families to the option of walking or biking to school. But it’s more than just exposure – these events are about changing community culture to ultimately build an environment that’s more inviting for every walker and bicyclist. How school leaders went about participating in this event varied but I was on site to experience a few of our local events firsthand.
Holton Students Loved Walking to School
The students of Linwood Holton Elementary in the city of Richmond met up at the Shops on MacArthur starting at 8am on National Walk to School Day. Cordell Watkins, the school’s PE teacher, had organized a health fair that students were participating in as they waited for the walk to commence. Folks from Fit4Kids, the YMCA of Greater Richmond, Sports Backers, and the Virginia Department of Health all came out to participate in the festivities and support the Holton students. Kids could be seen engaging in all sorts of physical activities that had been set up for their use but the greatest scene of the morning was when all of the kids started their mass exodus to school. A police car lead the way and a few of the students headed up the group carrying a “Walk to School Day” banner. They were so excited and were shouting loudly “walk to school!” This is just one example of the way Richmond students were engaged in this National Event. It was evident that kids in Richmond are excited about the idea of skipping the bus and choosing a healthier route to school.
Trying it out for the first time ever out at The Academy
A school in Henrico County, The Academy of Virginia Randolph, celebrated their first ever walk at school event on October 9th. I was so excited to get to be a part of this event and I feel certain that it’s the first of many more events like this out at the Academy. They had a dj playing tunes that helped getting the students pumped and had me doing a jig behind my table! Students of all ages, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, participated and they each logged at least a mile! All along the walking track there were signs that provided the students with quotes about walking and other cool facts related to the benefits of walking. One sign explained that walking improves efficiency of your heart and lungs; helps control your appetite; increases your energy; helps relieve stress; slows aging; and lowers high blood pressure.
But now what?
Now that the official Walk to School Day is over – what are we supposed to do next? How do we continue to reap the benefits of walking and being physically active? Why the answer to that is KEEP WALKING AND BIKING TO SCHOOL! Did you know that all children and adolescents are supposed to get an hour of physical activity each day? Having your child walk or bike to and from school is one great way to ensure that your child is active every day. If walking to school isn’t an option – try finding other ways to help your child incorporate physical activity into their everyday routine. Walk to the bus stop instead of riding in the car, take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a walk after school instead of turning on the TV, and try to set aside some quality family time and spend it doing a physical activity together. The idea is to just get moving!
Hippocrates chimes in . . .
One thing that stands out most in my mind from the two events I attended is that I didn’t see one kid that was frowning as they walked or biked that day. In fact they were all smiling and talking to one another – just kids being kids – all while getting in the physical activity that their developing bodies need. An annual event is a great start but let’s maintain the momentum for walking and biking to school. Together we can find ways to involve the community in creating a permanent culture shift that not only impacts today’s youth but those of generations to come. In the words of Hippocrates “walking is man’s best medicine.” So come on RVA . . . let’s get to walking!