Walk this Way! Start a Walking Club
Start a walking club to get students, teachers, administrators and the community to make walking part of their day — every day! This Play was developed in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Walking and running are great forms of exercise, and they’re easy — you can fit them in whenever and wherever it works! Not only that, but being physically fit is linked to helping you in school,i ii and it’s a fun way to spend time with friends and maybe even make some new ones.iii Research has shown links to physical fitness that can be game changing for their health and their learning.iv v vi
I Rauner, et. al. Evidence that aerobic fitness is more salient than weight status in predicting standardized math and reading outcomes in fourth- through eighth-grade students. Journal of Pediatrics: 2013 Aug. 163(2):344-8. Accessed February 15, 2017.
ii Raine LB, Lee HK, Saliba BJ, Chaddock-Heyman L, Hillman CH, et al. (2013). The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. PLoS ONE 8(9): e72666. Accessed February 15, 2017.
iii de la Haye, et. Al. How physical activity shapes, and is shaped by, adolescent friendships. 2011. Soc.Sci.Med. Accessed February 15, 2017.
iv Rauner, et. Al. Evidence that aerobic fitness is more salient than weight status in predicting standardized math and reading outcomes in fourth- through eighth-grade students. Journal of Pediatrics: 2013 Aug. 163(2):344-8. Accessed February 15, 2017.
v Raine LB, Lee HK, Saliba BJ, Chaddock-Heyman L, Hillman CH, et al. (2013). The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. PLoS ONE 8(9): e72666. Accessed February 15, 2017.
School Environments. 2013. GenYouth Foundation. et. al. Accessed March 2, 2017.
Huddle up with your principal to give your plans a thumbs up and to establish safe walking routes, teachers or other adults to oversee the club, and students to walk! Ask the P.E. teacher to talk to students about the benefits of doing a regular activity like walking. Think about what time(s) of day might work best for your school. Before school — along with a Grab and Go Breakfast — might be a great pairing of physical activity and healthy eating.
Students! Here are some things you can do to get things going!
- Organize a one-day walk-a-thon to benefit a local organization like a food pantry or an organization helping the homeless. Get students excited about helping others, and highlight the ways walking regularly will help them as well!
- Conduct a long-walk goal-setting survey, inviting students to some up with the most creative (and achievable) distance goal for the school community to walk in a combined effort.
Find the time. With your team, determine the best schedule for your walking club. It may be before or after school, between classes, during recess, at breakfast or lunch, or during PE. Get creative and decide what will work best for your students and your school. Your club can even find ways to get in some miles away from school, too!
Identify your route(s). Scout out potential walking routes in and around the school and calculate the distances. Plan to use cones or other markers so the path is easily identifiable. Make a plan for what to do on bad weather days and make at least one route inside the school.
Host an enthusiastic and energy-filled introductory kickoff event to launch your walking club. The support and encouragement students receive at the kickoff will motivate them throughout the season.
Make posters or flyers telling people about the club, too. The more people who know about your club, the better!
Recruit your club members and get them motivated. Use P.E. classes and lunch times to sign kids up and start to set their own goals. Send home a parent letter that explains the program and the benefits. Invite parents to join, and/or commit to support their children to be physically active, eat healthier and limit screen time and sedentary activities.
Check out walking areas in and around the school and mark off some distances to help motivate students to go a little farther every day. Plan for rainy days and make at least one route inside the school. Invite the school principal, a teacher, parent, community leaders or other adults to lead a walk once a week.
Set goals: Set targets for your club — calculate distances to places they want to visit and map them on a wall map when they’ve reached those distances. Alternatively, have students try to walk the distance from your school to your local NFL team’s home stadium in time for a home game!
Set up monthly or quarterly goals and contests that include cool prizes for students who "go the distance!"
Safety first: Create a flyer to help walkers know how to stretch and warm up. Be sure to pay attention to healthy practices and stay hydrated during walking club activities.
Consider ways to get and keep people interested in your walking club. Hold a kickoff event to get people excited. Hold weekly or monthly "extras" like encouraging walkers to carry hand weights, break up the walk with lunges or sprints, or create stop-and-go exercise stations to add other fitness activities into the morning walk. Consider using the club’s walks as a way to help get your group ready for a local community walk for charity — lots of cities and towns have these!
Work with your school nutrition professionals and the principal to time your club so if it is a morning club it meets before or after your school's breakfast programs (or have a Grab and Go option). Students need physical activity and a nutritious breakfast!
Spread the Word
Make posters or flyers telling people about the club. Put up markers like paper feet or football cleats in the gym or cafeteria to keep track of how far the club members walk throughout the year. Invite local celebrities to come to walking club events. Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school eNewsletter (or newsletter) and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; IG and TW: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!
Think long term. Hold regular celebrations to highlight students who meet their goals to keep them motivated. If some students have trouble, encourage them to reestablish goals that are more realistic and encourage them to increase distance goals as they get more fit. Establish an ongoing system of communication with parents of your walkers. Ongoing communication has been shown to increase both student tracking and parental support of other forms of exercise.
v Evaluation of Strategies for Increasing Parent Involvement in Marathon Kids and Pilot Implementation of Marathon Kids In-a-box August 31, 2013. University of Texas School of Public Health. Accessed February 15, 2017.
Involve the community. Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and let them know what they can do to help.
Everyone can help:
- Mark off walking routes in and around the school.
- Create awareness materials like posters and announcements.
- Encourage friends and classmates to join the club.
- Provide parents with information about the club.
- Work with local businesses to donate resources.
- Work with local sports stores or clubs and have a representative come speak to your club.
See our Homefield Advantage tips to help involve parents at school and at home.
Just getting started? Here is something you can do without jumping right into the full Play. Let this idea get you warmed up so you’re ready to tackle the full Play!
Host a one-day walking event. You can use it as a fundraiser for another Fuel Up to Play 60 activity you want to do or just do it to get people excited about joining the club when you’re ready! Here and here are two examples of schools doing one-day events.
Daviess County Middle School
Mileage ClubRead More
Hefferan Elementary School
Hefferan Knight Hawk Walking Club
We are bringing together students, staff and community to achieve a goal of walking 100 miles around our school playground.Read More
Woonsocket Walking Club
We started a walking club in Woonsocket and walked once a weekRead More
Murdock Elementary School
The Golden ShoeRead More
Funding and Outfitting Your Play
What might help?
- Items to create a walking or running trail, such as paint, signs, cones
- White board/bulletin board to track participants’ progress and post their Mileage Logs and Fuel Logs
- Pedometers (optional)
- Water bottles
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60
Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kick-start healthy changes!