PRIMARY school aged children across Tasmania are encouraged to start incorporating regular walking back into their daily routine.
To support this, the Pedestrian Council of Australia has announced National Walk Safely to School Day has been rescheduled for Friday 11 September 2020 following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Professor Patrick McGorry urged families with primary school aged children to start putting their best foot forward following a significant rise in anxiety, depression and overall poor mental health among young Australians due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“The recent pandemic dramatically interrupted the routines of families with young children as schools closed for extended periods of time and organised sport postponed until further notice,” Professor McGorry said.
“The mental and physical health impacts of COVID-19 are intertwined and we need to act quickly to flatten the rising curve of young Australian’s now struggling with mental health.”
National Walk Safely to School Day is a community initiative that aims to raise awareness of the health, road safety, transport and environmental benefits that regular walking (especially to and from school) can provide for the long-term wellbeing of our children.
Professor McGorry said along with physical benefits, regular walking had a positive impact on children’s mental health and academic performance.
“Research by Orygen shows that regular exercise, like walking to and from school, has a positive impact on anxiety and depression which is why we are encouraging primary school aged children to step into spring this September for National Walk Safely to School Day,” he said.
“There has never been a better time to build walking into our kid’s daily routine, by walking to and from, school, not just on Friday 11 September, but every day.”
Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman and chief executive officer Harold Scruby said childhood obesity affected one in four children at critical levels across Australia based on National Health Survey results.
“Unless teachers, parents, carers and the community get behind this event and its objectives, this number will never decrease,” he said.
“The best exercise for all of us is regular walking – children require at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity.
“We should encourage them to reinstate these healthy habits off the back of COVID-19 and include walking at the beginning, during and end of each day.”
The national initiative promotes improved diets, positive environmental action, better use of public transport with reduced car-dependency, and the vitally important road safety message of ‘until they are 10, children must always hold the hand of an adult when crossing the road.’
Parents and carers are also encouraged to walk more to reduce dangerous traffic congestion around schools, while minimising the risk of Australian children developing heart disease and diabetes.