Walking does wonders

January 11, 2018

Tatura Primary School's Grade 5 students enjoyed a sunny walk to the Children's Centre.

Primary school students in Benalla hit the streets, walking, riding, and scooting last October as part of VicHealth’s Walk to School program.

The initiative was so successful that children throughout the state covered more than 1.6million kilometres as part of Walk to School.

While the program was running last year the Ensign spoke with Dianne Fitzpatrick, a teacher at Peranbin Primary College, who said it was a great initiative for the kids to be involved in.

‘‘We’re in such lovely small townships and the Walk to School program is a great excuse to promote good health and get the kids outdoors,’’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

More than 130 new schools jumped on board the annual program in 2017, which saw more than 140000 children get active to and from school — travelling the equivalent distance of two return trips to the moon.

More than 140000 students walked, rode or scooted to and from school.

The results were particularly strong in regional and rural Victoria with 427 participating schools from regional areas.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said she was thrilled to see even more schools supporting their students to get active last year.

‘‘Walking, riding and scooting to school is a great way for kids to stay active and healthy, so it’s fantastic to see increasing numbers of schools joining VicHealth’s Walk to School program,’’ Ms Hennessy said.

‘‘Congratulations to the thousands of Victorian kids who took part in Walk to School.

‘‘We hope families will continue to embrace the healthy habits they’ve developed by continuing to walk to school in the new year.’’

Last year’s Walk to School program encouraged children to decorate their shoes, bikes or scooters to make walking to school even more fun.

VicHealth chief executive officer Jerril Rechter said it was fantastic to see children embracing their inner artist and getting excited about walking, riding and scooting to and from school.

‘‘We encouraged kids to put their creativity on show by decorating their shoes, bike or scooters and it was incredible to see the colourful designs our clever Victorian students came up with,’’ Ms Rechter said.

‘‘Getting active is even more fun when we do it together, and it was terrific to see schools and families right across the state embrace Walk to School in 2017.’’

Ms Rechter said with children’s physical activity on the decline and obesity rates on the rise it was critical they were supported to make active travel part of their day.

‘‘The proportion of Victorian children walking to school has declined dramatically in recent decades, from around 50 per cent in the 1970s to less than 20 per cent today,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s increasingly important to get schools and families involved in programs like Walk to School, so kids are set up for a lifetime of good health.’’

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