Nearly 2,000 students walked to school in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville on October 9 in celebration of International Walk to School Day, and they were joined by the mayors of those communities, Ken Bradley, Howard Schieferdecker and Bruce Mount.
This represented a 72% increase over walkers and riders just one week earlier, according to Healthy Central Florida (HCF) which helped coordinate the local walking event.
HCF is a community-based initiative founded by Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) to help make the local community the healthiest in the country. Because one of its goals is to get more children to walk and ride regularly, HCF helped coordinate and support the Walk to School effort at area schools.
“We are thrilled with the turnout this year,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, executive director of HCF. “It is clear there is momentum and enthusiasm for this movement and parents and children recognize it’s not only fun to walk to school, but there are many other benefits too, including 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 type 2 diabetes could quadruple by 2050, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting kids walking and biking increases physical activity and helps them reach and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, it’s been shown to improve academic performance and even classroom behavior.
“Schools play a critical role in improving the dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents,” says Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley. “Schools can create environments supportive of students’ efforts to be active by implementing policies and practices that support healthy eating and regular physical activity– and provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice these behaviors.”
“The event’s success is due to a total community effort,” said Hamilton Buss. “Our principals, teachers, city leaders, elected officials, parents and advocates came together to share a fun activity that promotes healthy living and student success. Everyone got an ‘A’ for effort!”