Healthy Abbotsford Blog

Why Your Kids Should Walk to School

This post comes from Active for Life.

When Jennifer Keesmaat was a kid, she walked to school. It would take her 15 minutes to get there and sometimes 1.5 hours to get home, but that was okay because the journey mattered. It mattered to her sense of self, her health, and her understanding of the world. She had exploring to do, chances she wanted to take. Walking to school helped shape her worldview.

As chief planner and executive director for the City of Toronto, Keesmaat uses the below TED Talk to question what happened to this free, simple adventure that all parents ought to offer their children.

Keesmaat points out that in 1969, only 12% of the population was driven to school. Today, only 12% of the population walk to school. In one generation we have completely inverted the way we get to school, and that matters for three reasons:

  1. Walking to school is a rite of passage. By doing so, children begin to understand who they are in relation to their neighbourhood, their community, their world. The walk provides trials to be overcome. If we prevent children this chance to develop autonomy, we put the future of our society at risk.
  2. As walking has decreased, obesity has significantly increased. Obese children face the obstacle of not being able to participate in day-to-day activities taking place at school, which can have a psychological impact. Children who walk to school are more likely to be active throughout the day.
  3. We need to live more simply. We’re taking more from the Earth than the planet has to give, and creating more waste than it can assimilate. What’s more simple – and green – than strapping on your shoes and walking to school?

As Keesmat says, kids don’t need permission to walk to school. They don’t need a license. They can do it right now. Exercise before school improves attentiveness in class, and leads to better grades. Plus, it provides an important opportunity for them to become independent.



International Walk to School Week

This week is International Walk to School Week. During this time, children from kindergarten through Grade 12 will be able to ride free on transit (must have a valid GoCard). So it is a great time to explore alternative ways for your kids to get to school. Maybe they can walk the whole way, maybe they take transit for part and walk the rest. There are lots of options.

Not comfortable with the idea of your kids walking to school? Talk to some of your neighbors and see if a group of kids can walk together, maybe one of the parents could walk with them.

Walking to school is better for your child’s physical and mental health, it builds confidence and independence and reduces the amount of traffic around the schools (which makes all kids safer).

For more information visit HASTe BC.

international walk to school week poster


Is Exercising Outdoors Better For Your Health?

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry looked at a number of different research studies and found that “compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.” Click here to read the full article.

Did you know that Abbotsford has over 100km of trails? There is no better way to exercise outdoors than spending time on the trail. With over 100km where do you start? Here is the great part, it doesn’t matter! You can start anywhere! Click on the picture below to access an online trail map. This map has a lot of great information, including:

  • which parts of the trail are paved, gravel or dirt
  • where the off-leash areas are for dogs
  • location of parks (it also lists what amenities are available at each park)
  • trail distances

Summer is a great time to get outdoors, see you on the trail…


Forget the Tutor – a Bike Ride may Help your Kid’s Grades More

The following article is from

How do you get your kid’s brain working at its best? Take a “Tiger Mother” approach, with academic drills and strict expectations? A private tutor? Before breaking out the flash cards, maybe you should start instead by lacing up your sneakers and taking your kid out for a run.

Physical exercise is a powerful way to enhance brain function. Research with animals has long suggested that aerobic exercise, in particular, enhances blood flow throughout the brain. It also stimulates the release of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which encourages the growth of new brain cells and neural connections, especially in regions involved in learning and cognitive processing. Neuroscientists have only recently confirmed that exercise induces similar neuroplastic changes within the human brain, including those of children.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Biking – Keep your Kids Safe

Many parents do not let their kids walk or ride their bikes to school on their own out of fear that something might happen to them. Here is an excerpt from the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition from their Cycling and Schools position paper that may give you some perspective on the safety of your kids riding to school:

Perception of or the lack of safety is the #1 reason parents currently prevent their children from riding to and from school. Ironically, the vehicle congestion around schools poses the greatest risk to students. Fortunately, serious accidents involving child cyclists are rare and much less common than those involving child pedestrians or car passengers. Surveys show that one in three parents would like to see cycle training in schools. Traffic free cycle routes were twice as popular with parents as cycle lanes on roads.

The risks of cycling are dwarfed by the health risks of lack of exercise. Children need safe routes to bike to school. In just one generation, the percentage of children who walk or bike to school has dropped 75%, while the number of overweight children has tripled. A recent bike survey indicated that over 30% of students would like to cycle to school, nine out of ten own bikes and currently less than 4% cycle to school.

Click here for a list of practical things that you can do to keep your child safe on their way to school.


Biking to School – Start a Bicycle Train!

Parents are often concerned about the safety of their children riding their bikes to school. As a result, many parents drive their kids to school. This creates more traffic and pollution around the school and less physical activity for the child. What if you could create a safer way for your child to bike to school? You can, start a bicycle train!

Getting to school isn’t normally something that kids would consider fun. Let’s change that! Kids need to move their bodies and what better time to do that than on the way to school where they will be sitting for the next 6-7 hours?

Start a walking school bus or Bicycle Train and provide a safe alternative to driving and allow children to incorporate physical activity into their day.

A Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train is a group of kids walking or cycling to school with one or more adults. It can be informally planned when two or three families take turns walking or cycling with their children to school or it might be a more formally developed and organized program with specific stops, specific participants and volunteer Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train leaders.

For tips on how to start a Bicycle Train or a Walking School Bus click here.


Biking to School – Safety Tips

Bike to School week is May 14-18. Here are some safety tips from to keep in mind when you or your kids are on your bikes.

List of bicycle safety tips


Bike to School Week Starts on Monday!

Bike to School week is May 14-18. According to a position paper published by HUB: Your Cycling Connection here are some of the reasons why we need to encourage kids to ride their bikes safely to school:

1. A biking to school program has the best potential to enhance the quality of life in the community. Promoting cycling has been proven to improve all aspects of health, community, environment and business. Parents who bike to school with their children get to be sociable.

2. Young people currently face an overall decrease in daily physical activity, poorer air quality, higher rates of childhood obesity, riskier traffic conditions and a loss of independence and skills development. The common denominator is the over-reliance on automobile travel. Getting children out of the back of the family car and on to safe bikeways can substantially improve their quality of life as well as that of their friends and neighbours.

3. Cycling is fun, healthy and inexpensive. Riding allows you to feel active and energetic while reducing stress and anxiety and increases academic potential as the brain works better with exercise.

4. One bike can travel up to 1,030 kilometers on the energy equivalent to a litre of gasoline. Cycling to and from school saves each family over $1,000.00 in transportation costs and over 500 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions each year. These emissions are especially harmful to children.

5. Approximately 10% of children walk to school regularly and less than 2% bike to school regularly. Even among children living within a kilometer of their school, only 25% are regular walkers. Elementary and secondary students should accumulate at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity from a variety of activities all or most days of the week.

6. Children, who are limited in their independent mobility, fall behind in personal and social development in comparison to children with more freedom of movement. Research has shown that independent mobility and being able to be outdoors without supervision is essential and that spatial awareness and understanding of how the world is structured is increased by independent travel.

Click here to read the full position paper.


4 Tips to Buying a Bike you Love!

The vast majority of us can remember our first time learning to ride a 2 wheeler. If it was anything like my memory it was an overwhelming sense of freedom! I can’t remember a day of my childhood that didn’t involve cycling around the neighborhood, biking to school or hitting some trails. But like many of us, the bike I had as a child soon had its fair share of use and abuse. Cycling with the old junker just wasn’t fun anymore.

Mountain Bikers

So here I am 31 years old and haven’t cycled in over 10 years. The technology has changed, there seems to be a style of bike for every conceivable type of riding and every rider I see is decked out as if they belong to a special club reserved only for the professionals.  So where do I start? I tried to find some info online and frankly the mass of information has sent my head for a spin. In an effort to figure this out I am connected with avid cyclist and owner of Life Cycles Bike Shop , Harvey Bergen

Harvey, an obvious fan of analogies, compares a bike to a pair of shoes. If you purchase a pair of shoes that don’t fit right or that aren’t designed for the activity you plan to participate in they will quickly end up in the back of your closet never to see the light of day. So when it comes to buying bikes, Harvey recommends that you consider the 4 F’s: Fit, Function, Fashion and Finance.

1 – Fit

Bikes come in many different sizes. We could get into the numbers, but generally these fall into small, medium and large frames. As well, you have bikes designed for women and those designed for men that take into account the anatomical differences between the genders. Harv’s advice is “try on” many different bikes to find the one that fits you best. Everybody has a different shape, size and proportions so one of the ways to know what fits you best is through trial and error. Help from an expert is also advisable.

2 – Function

This relates to the type of biking you plan on doing. Just like shoes are designed for different activities such as running and sports, bikes are designed for different terrains. So whether you are planning to commute to work on nicely paved roads or hit some rough trails, you want a bike that can perform well in your preferred conditions. Once you know the type of biking you want to do, go to your local bike store and explore the various options to suit your biking style.

3 – Fashion

We know now that buying a bike is about more then buying one that looks cool. However, once you know what fits well and is ideal for your intended uses you definitely want to find something you would be proud to ride down the street and show off to your friends. This helps to put you in the right head space and adds to the enjoyment of the ride.

4 – Finance

There are many different price ranges for bikes. Learn and explore your options in bikes before settling on a price range. This will help you get an idea of what your money can buy. If you purchase a bike only factoring in cost, it may not be the bike for you and will gather spider webs in no time. Harvey noted that a good purchase is one where you walk away thinking that that was the best money you ever spent! I’ll admit when I finally found the bike I felt met my cycling needs, I was pleasantly surprised at the price.

Now that you are equipped with the 4 F’s of buying a bike, get out there and rediscover your love of cycling!

Happy Pedaling!

Laura Loudon – Healthy Abbotsford Community Coordinator


Organize a Bike Rodeo to Keep Kids Healthy and SAFE!

Bicycling is a fun way to encourage children to be active and healthy.  However, cycling comes with it own set of hazards and any child who gets on a bike should be taught bike safety.  A Bike Rodeo is a fun and easy way to teach children how to safely ride their bike and enjoy all the benefits of cycling.

A bike rodeo is a bike obstacle course with a number of stations children navigate through on their bikes to learn the finer points of bike safety such as starting and stopping, scanning the road and making turns.  A bike rodeo will address common mistakes that most often results in accidents such as riding out of a driveway without stopping, or failing to look for stop signs. 

Running a bike rodeo can be simple with a little bit of planning.  Click here for all the information you need to organize a bike rodeo for your school, community or neighbourhood.

Here are some other bike safety resources you will find on this site:

  • Bike Safety Videos
  • How to Fit a Helmet
  • How to Choose a Bike
  • Tips for Parents
  • Bike Safety Presentations

Happy Pedalling!