The first Wednesday in October was National Walk-to-School Day. Not only does the day encourage getting some exercise, but the weather is often mild by then, making it optimal for walking to school, too.

The first Wednesday in October was National Walk-to-School Day. Not only does the day encourage getting some exercise, but the weather is often mild by then, making it optimal for walking to school, too. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and support for the health, community and environmental benefits of regularly walking or biking to school. In Shawnee, while locals trekked to school, they traveled a combined 467 miles.

Walking is considered one of the best forms of exercise. “It isn’t hard on our joints and feet like running and jogging, but still gives us all the advantages,” Taylor Shekarabi, ith Blue Zones Project, said. “Advantages include increased metabolism, improved cardiorespiratory fitness and lower weight and BMI.”

In addition to the physical benefits, children who walk to school have been found to have higher academic performance in terms of attention/alertness, verbal, numeric and reasoning abilities; a higher degree of pleasantness and lower levels of stress during the school day; and higher levels of happiness, excitement and relaxation on the journey to school, she said.

“In Shawnee we had a jump start on all the walking fun with the formation of Walking School Buses around town,” she said, “and the Mayor’s Challenge to get our students to walk the distance to Japan with plenty of fun prizes to stir up more excitement.”

This year during the Mayor’s challenge, Shekarabi said the walking buses have logged 3,485 miles.

“That’s over halfway to Japan,” she said. “Let’s make it to Japan, home of our sister city Nikaho — and original Blue Zone Okinawa — before 2020.”

To start a Walking School Bus at your school, email Taylor.Shekarabi@Sharecare.com.

“Special thanks to all of the community partners that make our challenge possible,” she said.

Shekarabi said school-wide prizes were provided by Mayor Richard Finley and First United Bank and student prizes were provided by Bell Street Retro Arcade.

“Volunteer walking groups were from BancFirst, OBU Lacrosse and Great Plains Graphics,” she said. “And thanks, of course, to all of the administrators, teachers and community members that were willing to champion this effort to make the healthy choice the easy choice for students.”

To learn more about Blue Zones Project, call the Blue Zones Project team in Pottawatomie County at (405) 765-8052 or visit www.bluezonesproject.com.