Last Friday, May 19, was National Walk Safely to School Day, when all primary school kids are encouraged to walk and commute safely to school.
Federal Assistant Minister for Health, David Gillespie, said walking to school under supervision of a responsible adult or teenager is an easy way to provide children with healthy regular physical activity.
He urged parents to take the time to organise for their primary school age children to be able to walk to school as often as possible.
“This is the 18th year that National Walk Safely to School Day has been marked in Australia,” Dr Gillespie said.
“Unfortunately, we need the message more than ever that children need to be active to stay mentally, physically fit and healthy.
“Physical activity doesn’t just improve our muscles and lungs, it’s also good for our immune system and our minds – leading to better concentration and also helping us to stay happy and alert.
“Walking to school is the ideal way to get some low impact exercise and build healthy lifestyle habits for our children.”
Road Safety Officer Michelle Doolan advises it is the perfect opportunity for parents to talk about pedestrian safety with your kids.
“It’s also a great way to promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging our young ones to be more active,” she said.
To help parents discuss the importance of road safety, Ms Doolan suggests that you use the following road safety tips which have been provided by the Centre for Road Safety:
• If you’re walking to school remember to use pedestrian crossings, stay alert and stay off your mobile phone
• Parents and carers should hold hands when out walking with their children until they are at least 10 years old
• Stop, Look, Listen and Think – every time you cross the road!
• Be a positive role model and always demonstrate the same safe behaviour around children, as they will often learn habits from you
• When you’re getting off a bus, keep an eye on children to make sure they’re safe and always let the bus pass before you cross the road0
Parents and carers are encouraged to head to the Centre for Road Safety website for educational resources, or the Safety Town website (www.safetytown.com.au) for road safety learning materials for young children.
Around 30 per cent of Australian children aged 5 to 17 currently meet physical activity guidelines. While the participation rate declines with age, only 36 per cent of 5 to 8 year olds are active enough.
National Walk Safely to School Day is organised by the Pedestrian Council of Australia. The event is supported with $50,000 in funding from the Department of Health.