Cedar Rapids district celebrates students who walk to school

Researchers connect physical activity to enhanced school performance

Volunteer Julie McMahan walks with Jackson Elementary school students Zachary and Margaux Ispentchian on Walk to School Day in NW Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Volunteer Julie McMahan walks with Jackson Elementary school students Zachary and Margaux Ispentchian on Walk to School Day in NW Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Health experts recommended children engage in an hour of aerobic exercise every day.

That’s an easy goal for students who walk to and from school, Cedar Rapids parents and teachers said.

In addition, Jackson Elementary Principal Nick Duffy said, “It’s a nice, healthy way to get the day started for the kids. We know when the body is moving, the brain is working.”

The Cedar Rapids Community School District celebrated students who walk to school as part of International Walk to School Day and the Iowa Healthiest State Walk Event, both of which fell on Wednesday.

A growing body of research shows physical activity can help improve a student’s grades and performance on standardized tests, including studies from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And benefits to walking or biking to school stretch beyond exercise, said Julie McMahan, coordinator of Jackson’s Walking School Bus.

She and another volunteer walk the same route every Wednesday morning, “picking up” about 12 students on the way to school. McMahan said her three children, all Jackson students, walk with the “bus.”

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“They enjoy walking with their friends and getting to know their neighborhood a little closer,” McMahan said. “I think it gives them a sense of independence, too, where they don’t have to rely on me to get them to school.”

Only one walking school bus is running for Jackson, though McMahan said a second route could open with more adult volunteers.

Students at Johnson STEAM Academy, 355 18th St. SE, and Hoover Elementary, 4141 Johnson Ave. NW, also learned about safe walking tips Wednesday.

For students who live too far from school or don’t have a safe path to school, Duffy encouraged parents to engage in exercise in other ways.

“I think a lot of our parents know the value of getting involved in some of the activities that get kids moving,” Duffy said. “As fun as electronics are, we want to be making sure we carve out that time to put the electronics away — and even just be out in the backyard running around.”

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