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The Kid’s Doctor: The benefits of walking to school

  • Author: Sue Hubbard, M.D.,, Premium Health News Service
  • Updated: July 29, 2019
  • Published July 29, 2019

Now that school is back in session and the temperatures are cooling off, an easy way to get some extra exercise is to walk to school with your children. I am thinking it should become a weekly event across the country. How about "Walk to School Wednesdays"?

I realize that not everyone lives in an area where it is possible to walk to school. But in some cases there are many children who do live close enough, yet they are typically driven to school by parents or a carpool. I practice in an area where it would be easy for many children to walk to school, but when I ask them if they walk to school they typically give me a quizzical look and answer "no."

Many parents are concerned that their children don't get enough exercise, and this is a way to sneak in some daily exercise. Walking together also gives parents time to talk with their children. It is really a gift of time together.

I remember when my children could walk to school for the several years we lived nearby their elementary school. They are some of my fondest memories: coffee cup in hand, dog on a leash, walking the boys to school. It was a sad day when they said, "Mom, we want to ride our bikes." They met some of their other friends (I was the helmet "cop") and off they went. No more talks with their mother or holding hands to cross the street; but growing up.

There are other perks of walking too! Think about avoiding those long carpool lines. What about the gas that is saved and less pollution for the environment? No one arguing about sitting next to the window or what radio station to listen too either. And for those children who tend to get car sick, this is a great solution.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Safe Routes to School Program Safety Tips

No matter whether you are biking or walking in Alaska, remember the following safety tips and especially the winter list below:

1. Follow the law

2. Be predictable

3. Be visible

4. Ride ready

5. Think ahead

Walking Tips

1. Stay alert while walking, look and listen.

2. Walk on the sidewalk when possible. If no sidewalk exists, walk left against the flow of traffic.

3. Cross at a crosswalk whenever you can.

4. Stop and look left, right, and left again before you cross the street.

5. Cross with a crossing guard’s help when they are available.

6. At traffic lights, wait for the white WALK sign before crossing.

7. Watch for cars turning at intersections even when you use a crosswalk.

8. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.

Bicycling Tips

1. Always wear a properly fitted helmet.

2. Ride with the flow of traffic.

3. Signal all turns and stops.

4. Obey all traffic laws.

5. Inspect and maintain your bicycle.

Be Seen

1. Be visible to motorist.

2. Dress brightly in light colored clothes.

3. Use a reflector or wear reflective clothing.

4. Carry a flashlight or headlamp when walking at night.

5. Make eye contact with motorist when crossing streets.

Winter Safety Tips

1. Walkers and bicyclists should always wear reflective clothing, bright colors, and personal reflectors.

2. If walking/biking at night, be sure to use a headlamp or flashlight.

3. Bicyclists in Alaska are required by law to use a headlight and a taillight at night.

4. When road and sidewalk conditions are icy, be sure to wear shoes with good traction. Wear ice traction cleats to prevent slipping, if necessary.

5. Only cross at designated crosswalks.

6. Icy roads may prevent motorists from stopping or slowing down for pedestrians. Before stepping into the street to cross, be sure all cars have stopped completely.

7. Never assume a motorist can see you. Make eye contact with motorists before crossing the street.

8. If a sidewalk is not present, walk against traffic. This allows you to make eye contact with motorists.

9. Always ride with the flow of traffic (on the right).

10. Never walk or ride with earphones. Snow can muffle the sound of approaching cars.

11. Stay warm with scarves and hats but be careful not to block your vision. This type of clothing could easily impair your vision, making it difficult to see icy conditions, which could lead to a fall.

Another great way to get kids - and parents - active before their school day starts is biking to school!May 8, 2019, was last year’s Bike to School Day, celebrated throughout Anchorage by students and staff. Keep an eye out on the Anchorage School District website and school newsletters for information regarding similar events this school year, including requirements and safe routes!