Walk to School in Winter - It's Cool!

TORONTO, Feb. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - February is Heart Month in Canada and Wednesday, February 8 has been declared Winter Walk Day. St. Cecilia Catholic School in Toronto is one of approximately 500 schools across Canada that will be walking - or snow shoeing, skiing or skating to school.

Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee Barbara Poplawski, Superintendent of Education Jim Saraco, MPP for Parkdale-High Park Cheri DeNovo, Toronto City Councillor Sarah Doucette, representatives from Toronto Public Health, and Bonhomme will be helping St. Cecilia students celebrate their commitment to active travel to school at 8 am on February 8. Accompanying the students will be parents, staff and representatives from Green Communities Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Share the Road.

Upon arriving at school, the entire school community will join in a national Daily Physical Activity (DPA) session.

"Our children are our future and we need to work together to create a heart-healthy lifestyle for our kids," said Colleen Hill, Manager, Heart Healthy Children and Youth. "It's Heart Month and there's no better time to start than right now. By increasing their physical activity and making walking or wheeling to school safe, we can ensure a brighter future for our children."

Heart Month is a national campaign that mobilizes Canadians to rally together in raising awareness and funds that have an enormous impact on the lives of all Canadians. Through the generosity and compassion of volunteers, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is able to apply life-saving knowledge, education and advocacy that generate real results and give us more of the moments that we all live for.

The benefits of walking to school year round far outweigh the perceived convenience of driving. It is great physical activity for the entire family, providing opportunities to learn about their neighbourhood and teach children important street safety skills.

St. Cecilia's Principal Mazza is a great supporter of walking: "Walking to school has multiple benefits for our school community. We're hoping that events like this one remind students and families that the walk to school is not that far. It's an opportunity to add to fitness levels, and to travel with peers who are using the same route. You can drive a route to school every day, but then you miss all the little things that enhance a route that is walked. It's satisfying to reduce vehicle emissions, which lines up with our eco-school efforts as well."

In Ontario, Winter Walk Day is promoted by Green Communities Canada's Active & Safe Routes to School program. Schools can register online at www.saferoutestoschool.ca to receive promotional materials to encourage students to make walking to school fun!

Green Communities Canada is currently working with the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, a provincial cycling advocacy and policy organization, to study the barriers to getting children to school by bicycle in four school districts across the province. "We are thrilled to partner with Green Communities Canada on this valuable initiative. Finding ways to encourage children to walk or wheel to school is critical to establishing healthy habits for life, and instilling in our children the love of cycling. In a growing number of communities, partners are working together on active and safe routes to school programs like Winter Walk Day, and we are delighted to be a part of this wonderful initiative," said Eleanor McMahon, CEO and Founder, Share the Road Cycling Coalition.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has been a long time supporter of many communities in Ontario who have received Spark Advocacy Grants to advocate for and build community support for local Active & Safe Routes to School initiatives. 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario is calling for public policies that make it easier for children and their families to be more physically active and eat healthier foods. 

"Every child deserves the right to grow up healthy - to be active and eat healthy, affordable food where they live, learn and play,"added Hill. "So dress for the weather, get outside and enjoy the fresh, crisp air! Walking is good for our health, the environment and can also reduce traffic and build community."

Green Communities Canada is a national association of non-profit organizations that deliver innovative, practical environmental solutions to Canadian households and communities. For more information, visit www.saferoutestoschool.ca/.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

Share the Road was created to unite cycling organizations and cyclists from across Ontario and work with and on behalf of municipalities to give them the tools they need to become more bicycle-friendly. The organization's mandate is province-wide. Our objective is simple: To make Ontario more bicycle friendly.

Winter Walk Day

Media Backgrounder

Walking year round is great for our health, the environment, reducing traffic and building community. In winter, we just need to dress warmly and keep moving to enjoy the health, safety and environmental benefits.

  • Health - regular, daily walking reduces health risks such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (http://www.active2010.ca/Documents/active2010-strategy-e.pdf; http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3820627/k.DB5D/The_built_environment_physical_activiy_heart_disease_and_stroke.htm);"Walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise" - Professor J. Morris and Dr. Adrianne Hardman, 1997 (http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/factsandfigures/health.htm)
  • From the 2008 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth: according to the report, 90% of Canadian children and youth are still failing to meet the guidelines outlined in Health Canada's Physical Activity Guides for Children and Youth, earning an F grade for physical activity levels for the second year in a row. The 2008 report card (long form) included a new section on Active Transportation to School (pages 44 - 45). The grade assigned to Canadian children for 2008 for Active Transportation was a "D" and included a most relevant question: "How can we afford not to encourage active transportation with the benefits of it being numerous and far-reaching?" To view the long version of the 2008 Report Card that includes the two page section on Active Transportation, or to just take a look at the short version, visit: http://www.activehealthykids.ca/Ophea/ActiveHealthyKids_v2/programs_2008reportcard.cfm
  • Environment - replacing short car trips with walking can improve local air quality and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping Ontarians meet climate change objectives. A short trip on foot to school by 9 families participating in a 'walking school bus' can reduce greenhouse gases by 1,000 kg over one year (http://www.saferoutestoschool.ca/)
  • Traffic - more people walking means less congestion on roads, reduced requirements for road infrastructure and maintenance, and more awareness of pedestrians by drivers thereby increasing pedestrian safety (http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/whatwedo/atfa/ATFA_20081020.pdf)
  • Community cohesion - More people walking encourages even more people to walk, increasing social interaction, lessening crime and vandalism due to more eyes on the streets, heightening the sense of community belonging, pride, and spirit (Leyden,K. Social Capital and the Built Environment: The Importance of Walkable Neighbourhoods, American Journal of Public Health 2003; 93: 1546 -51).
  • Economy - when a population shift to walking occurs, health care costs are reduced as a result of the health benefits of walking; when business districts cater to walkers instead of drivers their prosperity increases; highly walkable districts are magnets for tourism (Go for Green, The Business Case for Active Transportation, March 2004)
  • Fuel savings - individuals save money by using their cars less, and demand for a dwindling supply of oil is lessened. (http://www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/whatwedo/atfa/ATFA_20081020.pdf)
  • Emotional health: Children who walk to school may be emotionally healthier than children who travel by motorized vehicles. (Transport related health impacts—Costs and benefits, with a particular focus on children: Synthesis report (first draft). Herry Consult (Vienna, Austria) for UNECE-WHO Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE-PEP), Feb. 2004 http://herry.at/the-pep/down/malta/Input-Paper_Malta_Synthesis-First-Draft.pdf. Accessed November 22, 2004. Of 244 young people aged 9-16 years, those who always walked showed lower scores concerning depression, aggression/hostility, anxiety, and psychosomatic symptoms compared with children who never or seldom walked. But, were the children healthy because they walked, or did they walk because they were healthy?)
  • 1 in 15 children can expect to be injured in a road collision before they are 16. Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death in Canada for children over the age of one year (Canadian Institute for Child Health, 1999)
  • Heavy traffic reduces the independent mobility of children and youth. (Tranter, P., Doyle, J. (1996), Reclaiming the residential street as play space, International Play Journal, 4, pp. 81-97);
  • Cars present a far more lethal threat to our children than all the perpetrators of aggression put together. For every one victim of violence, three children are killed on the road. In the OECD countries, 41% of deaths of children under the age of 14 are caused by road traffic accidents.
    (European Commission Directorate-General for the Environment (2002) kids on the move, p. 25);

Tips for dressing for winter walking:

  • Keep hands and head covered to prevent heat loss
  • On really cold days wear a scarf over your face and mouth
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots
  • Wear a warm coat that deflects the wind
  • Woolen clothing helps to retain the heat
  • Wear clothing or carry knapsacks with reflective material - it's important to be seen
  • If possible, change wet clothes at school - tuck an extra pair of socks and mitts into knapsacks
  • Below -25oC is considered too cold for walking so move your walk in-doors or select another day for outdoor activities or walking to school.

SOURCE Green Communities Canada

For further information:

Green Communities Canada
Jacky Kennedy
Tel: 416-488-7263
Cell: 416-922-5496

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario
Tonya Johnson, Public Relations
Tel: 416-489-7111, ext. 353
Email: tjohnson@hsf.on.ca

Share the Road
Eleanor McMahon
Tel: 647-201-2820
Email: eleanor.mcmahon2@sympatico.ca

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