In Bicycling, Climate Change, Public Health, Safe Routes to School, Walking

There are only a few days left until we Spring Forward, which got us thinking about Step into Spring, our yearly campaign to encourage active transportation among school children. Why do we care about physical activity among school children? The guidelines for daily physical activity for children recommend 60 minutes of activity per day. Children spend a lot of time in school every day and research shows that physical activity can help improve academic achievement and has an impact on academic behavior.  Despite the evidence pointing to the benefits of including physical activity, many schools do not provide opportunities during school time and only 33% encourage active transportation to school. The US 2018 report card shows that approximately 24% of children 6 to 17 years of age engaged in 60 or minutes of activity per day while approximately 33% engaged in 2 hours or more of screen time. While active transportation is a great way to increase the amount of activity per day, we are aware that may not be an option in some areas. Here are some of the ways the school can improve on offering children more opportunities for physical activity:  

  1. Recess is a great opportunity to engage in active play, however only 65% of school districts require regularly scheduled recess. Only 11% and 8% respectively of elementary and middle schools provide regular classroom physical activity breaks during the school day. There are many ways to include physical activity throughout the day whether it is taking a short break to stretch, adding physical activity during morning announcements, or listening to a song and taking a dancing break between classes. Here are a few more ideas on how to include physical activity during school time.
  2. Another great way to encourage physical activity is to encourage active transportation to school. Encourage walk to school buses and bike to school trains. Only 33% of school districts support or promote walking and biking to and from school. GMTMA can assist schools and parents with identifying walking and biking routes and offer a Walking School Bus App to help parents take turns to organize walks and monitor steps and CO2. More info about the GMTMA Safe Routes to School program is available here.  
  3. Host a walking and biking safety presentation to help children become more confident walking and biking after school. You can host our SRTS coordinators at your school for a presentation on how to walk and bike safely.
  4. Encourage physical activity during out of school time (OST) by connecting with OST programs and working on including physical activity during OST hours. Some ideas on how to proceed and what to consider are available here. 

Spring is a great time to get children energized and excited about physical activity. It is also a great time to start or re-energize parents and children to consider walking and biking to school. And GMTMA can help. Contact us to learn more about our program and how we can support active transportation programs in your community.

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