Walk to School in Winter - It's Cool

    TORONTO, Feb. 11 /CNW/ - Wednesday, February 11, is Ontario's first
annual Winter Walk Day. Highgate Public School in Markham is one of almost 400
Ontario schools that will be walking - or snow shoeing, skiing or skating to
school and at school today.
    The benefits of walking to school, even in winter, far outweigh the
perceived convenience of driving. It is great physical activity for the entire
family, providing opportunities to learn about your neighbourhood and teach
children important street safety skills. Walking to school identifies where
other families live and over time friendships develop while walking to school
together. This can lead to parent or senior student-led walking school buses
along designated walking routes.
    "By teaching children healthy habits while they are young, we are
providing them with the building blocks to live healthy, active lives," said
Minister of Health Promotion Margarett Best. "That is why I am proud to be
supporting Green Communities Canada in this innovative project that encourages
kids and their families to walk to school."
    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.
    This February get out of your car, dress warmly and walk to school.
    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 Active & Safe Routes to School is supported by the
Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion's Active 2010 initiative

                               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
        "Walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise" - Professor J.
        Morris and Dr. Adrianne Hardman, 1997
    -   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:
    -   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
    -   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
    -   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.
    -   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
        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

For further information:

For further information: Andrea Haefele, Health & Physical Education
Teacher, Highgate Public School, Ph: (905) 477-1019; Rose Bergeron, Green
Communities Canada, 1-877-533-4098 Ext. 116, (705) 745-7479,

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