With the start of the school year fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about how to get our kids to school. Recently, there’s been a significant push for active school travel (AST). Programs are popping up across Canada to identify routes and educate students and their parents on safe active transportation.
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British Columbia’s Capital Regional District is running an 18-month program on AST planning, involving five elementary schools in 2019-2020.
And the Ontario Active School Travel Fund, which aims to increase physical activity opportunities for elementary-age children, has awarded funding to a whopping 16 projects in the 2019-2020 school year, some of them involving multiple schools. Ontario Active School Travel has been a real leader in this campaign, developing a concise School Travel Planning Toolkit that’s readily available online to plan and implement similar programs in other communities.
But, if you’re still wondering why there’s such a strong emphasis on AST, you don’t need to look far to find the many benefits associated with it.
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Did you know that:
- AST is an easy way to work in physical activity for kids. With the prevalent concerns surrounding sedentary lifestyles and trending inactivity in children, AST provides an opportunity for kids to work physical activity into their daily routine.
- Kids who walk or wheel to school have been shown to have higher levels of happiness, improved mental health, and lower levels of stress throughout the school day.
- Kids who walk or wheel to school have been shown to have better attention spans, be more alert, and have higher academic performances. If being active before school can lead to improved learning and academic outcomes, why not work it into a daily routine?
- Kids who walk or wheel to school develop road and traffic safety skills. It’s important to teach children safe practices when walking or wheeling, such that they gain added “street smarts” to do it safely. In practicing AST, kids will develop a sense of independence, as well as build lifelong habits of active mobility.
- AST helps reduce traffic in school zones and thereby improves safety. Often, school zones are extremely congested at drop-off and pick-up times, so much so that even crossing the road can become dangerous. Reducing the number of vehicles in school zones at these times could reduce the hazards. Plus, less traffic also means decreased greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air.
So it’s no wonder that there’s a push for active school travel. With September around the corner, we ought to consider how to work it into our children’s daily routine.
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