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Parents, students encouraged to skip the car line and join International Walk to School Day

Healthy Central Florida, Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation are calling upon students and parents to join International Walk to School Day on Oct. 7.

Last year, 1,968 students in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville walked together on International Walk to School Day. Organizers hope there will be even more participating students this year, who will again be joined by elected officials, parents and advocates.

“Last year, we saw a 62 percent increase in walkers on International Walk to School Day compared to normal weekdays,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, executive director of Healthy Central Florida, which is helping coordinate and support the effort at area schools along with Best Foot Forward and others.

“It is clear there is momentum and enthusiasm for this movement. Parents and children recognize it’s not only fun to walk to school, but there are many other benefits, including improved learning and retention, better behavior and very importantly — better health.”

During the past three decades, the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has increased from 4.2 percent to 17 percent. And rates of type 2 diabetes could quadruple by 2050, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting kids walking and bicycling also helps maintain a healthy weight. 

Additionally, walking and bicycling improve academic performance and classroom behavior.

International Walk to School Day is also a great opportunity to raise awareness for pedestrian safety.

Healthy Central Florida and organizations such as Best Foot Forward continue to work with municipalities and other community organizations to identify and address challenges such as traffic, speed, and lack of sidewalks, crosswalks and trails, as well as motorist behavior.

“The success of our efforts and growing this program each year is due to a total community effort,” said Hamilton Buss. “Our principals, teachers, city leaders, elected officials, parents and advocates continue to work together to promote safety, health and student success.”