Walk this Way! Start a Walking Club
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 students’ health and learning.iv v vi
iRauner 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, Aug. 2013, 163(2): 344–8. Accessed January 20, 2018.
ii Raine, L. B., Lee, H. K., Saliba, B. J., Chaddock-Heyman, L., Hillman, C. H. et al., The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. 2013. PLoS ONE, 8(9): e72666. Accessed January 20, 2018.
iii de la Haye et al., How physical activity shapes, and is shaped by, adolescent friendships.2011. Soc. Sci. Med. Accessed January 20, 2018.
ivRauner 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 January 20, 2018.
v Raine, L. B., Lee, H. K., Saliba, B.J., Chaddock-Heyman L., Hillman, C. H., et al., The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. 2013. PLoS ONE, 8(9): e72666. Accessed January 20, 2018.
vi The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success through Healthy School Environments.2013. GenYouth Foundation et al. Accessed January 20, 2018.
Huddle up with your principal to give your plans a thumbs-up and establish safe walking routes, teachers or other adults to oversee the club, and students to walk! Ask the PE 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 come 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 club members 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 club 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 PE classes and lunch periods to sign kids up and set their own goals. Send home a parent letter that explains the club and its 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 for your club: Calculate distances to places club members want to visit and note them on a wall map when they’ve reached those distances. Alternatively, if practical, have students 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 that shows walkers the right way to stretch and warm up, and gives tips for walking safely (crossings, staying on the path, etc.). Be sure, also, to pay attention to healthy practices and stay hydrated during walking club activities.
Think about ways to get and keep people interested in your walking club. Throw a walking club kickoff event to get people excited. Hold weekly or monthly "extras" like encouraging walkers to carry hand weights, breaking up the walk with lunges or sprints, or creating stop-and-go exercise stations to add other fitness activities into the morning walk. Consider using the club’s walks as a way to train your group for a local community walk for charity — many cities and towns have events like these!
Work with your school nutrition professionals and the principal to time your club so that 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 newsletter and student newspaper, and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; TW and IG: @FUTP60) and using #WalkthisWay!
Be a leader. Make a point to spend time walking with students you may not know. Find out what they are interested in, and which friends of theirs might want to join but haven’t yet. Encourage your new friends to invite their friends, and facilitate new members’ introductions to new peers. Work toward as inclusive a model of walking club as you can.
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.vii
vii 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.
Build Local Community
Work with your school’s parent organization to organize walking school buses to help kids get to school on their own power, but in a safe and fun way. Many parents leave for work before their children leave for school. Offer them an opportunity to engage more with kids and get in some physical activity of their own by taking turns being on the bus. That way, kids have a safe “ride” to school every day and all parents get to be a part of it from time to time.
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Credit: Safe Routes to School/Every Body Walk
- Mark off walking routes in and around the school.
- Create awareness materials such as posters and announcements.
- Encourage friends and classmates to join the club.
- Provide parents with information about the club.
- Ask local businesses to donate resources.
- Work with local sports stores or clubs and have a representative come speak to your club.
Help Build the Whole Fuel Up to Play 60 Community
Encourage students to log on to their Dashboard and report activity to achieve Level Three (30,000 Points) and be named a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador! Having ambassadors at your school will help get more students involved and make your Play a success!
Homefield Advantage: Check out this resource and share it with parents so they can see what they can do to help at home and at school.
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 use it to get people excited about joining the walking club! 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
Things That 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 goals and successes
- 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 positive changes!