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Update from California Department of Public Health

California Department of Public Health Encourages Children and Their Parents to Participate in Walk to School Week

Number: PH07-44
Date: October 2, 2007
For Release: Immediate
Contact: Suanne Buggy or Lea Brooks
http://www.cdph.ca.gov
916-440-7259

SACRAMENTO - Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), today encouraged California students and their parents to walk or bicycle to school this week in honor of Walk to School Week that began yesterday and will be celebrated through Friday. More than 140,000 students and their parents are expected to participate in events throughout the state this week, the 10th anniversary of California's Walk to School movement.

"The intent of Walk to School Week is to reverse the significant decline in the number of children who walk or bicycle to school and other neighborhood destinations," Horton said. "Walking or biking to school increases our children's daily dose of physical activity and curbs the rate of obesity and diabetes. Children are healthier, happier and have the opportunity to develop essential life skills such as a sense of independence when they are physically active and better connected to their community."

California's Walk to School movement has significantly grown since its inception. In 1997, five schools in the state participated in Walk to School events. This year, more than 1,800 schools are taking part. Worldwide, millions of children and their parents, school officials and community leaders are expected to participate in Walk to School activities throughout October.

The goals of Walk to School Week are to:

  • Show how easy and enjoyable walking -- the world's simplest physical activity -- is as adults and children spend healthy, active time together.
  • Help community members take steps toward creating more walkable communities by advocating for more crosswalks and crossing guards.
  • Teach children safe walking behavior, including how to cross streets and how to select safe routes to and from school.

In 2006, more than 1,500 California schools participated in Walk to School events. This year, schools are planning a wide range of activities throughout October, with many events taking place on Wednesday. Activities include "walking school buses," assemblies, pedestrian and bicycle safety fairs and educational events to commemorate the Walk to School movement.

One in three children under 12 and one in four adolescents 12-17 in California are estimated to be overweight or at-risk for becoming overweight, according to state surveys. In addition, only 13 percent of all trips to and from schools in California are made by foot and bicycle. If current trends continue, it is estimated that one in four children will develop type 2 diabetes, including one in two Latino and African-American children. Health experts recommend children get at least 60 minutes of active play every day and adults accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day that can be broken into 10-minute increments over the course of the day.

Regular physical activity during childhood is known to promote physical fitness, self-esteem, confidence, healthy weight, optimal bone development and academic achievement. An analysis by the California Department of Education that compared 2001 results of physical fitness testing with the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition (SAT 9), showed a significant relationship between academic achievement and levels of physical fitness in California students.

Walking to school is consistent with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's vision for a healthier California and his sustained efforts to help Californians fight obesity. As outlined in the recently released California Obesity Prevention Plan: A Vision for Tomorrow, Strategic Actions for Today, all sectors of society have a role to play in improving health, including promoting physical activity for children. The governor also has committed to increasing the number of children walking or biking to school through grants awarded under the California Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program.

For more information on Walk to School, visit www.caphysicalactivity.org.



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