May is national bike and walk to school month

National Walk and Bike to School Month this May provides a great opportunity to show children how fun it can be to practice good habits that are healthy for both themselves and the environment.

The Healthy Active Hood River County Coalition wants every child and parent to consider participating in the month-long effort — for personal and community health.

If your children have a safe route to walk or bike to school, support them in doing so in May.

Asthma, childhood obesity and diabetes risk have dramatically risen in children with the decrease in children walking and biking to school, and becoming less active in general.

Here’s what being less physically active is contributing to in children:

n Asthma: Asthma attacks are a leading cause of children’s emergency room visits. Parents driving their students to school now comprise up to 25 percent of morning traffic. Vehicles emit air pollutants, which can worsen asthma.

n Obesity: Children who are overweight and out of shape have reached epidemic levels in recent decades, as children spend an average of seven hours a day in front of screens. This includes TV, video games and cellphones.

n Diabetes: Current statistics say one out of every two children born today will develop Type 2 diabetes.

Kids need physical exercise. Experts say they need at least 60 minutes a day. In the 1960s more than half of all school children walked to school. Now that number is down to 15 percent.

One recent study showed that kids who walk to schools and libraries and find healthy food at nearby supermarkets are 59 percent less likely to be obese than kids whose neighborhoods don’t allow that. And in a study in Spain, girls who walked to school did better on test scores.

Each child that can safely walk or bike to school can start a healthy trend. Portland neighbors are proving it.

According to recent analyses, by 2017, Portland residents will have saved $64 million in health care costs thanks to bicycling. By 2040, the city will have invested $138-$605 million in bicycling, yet saved $388-$594 million in health care costs and $143-$218 million in fuel costs.

Not all children in our community can walk and bike to school safely. This is because of lack of sidewalks, bike lanes and safe shoulders on roads.

If there is not a safe route, you can support them in being physically active in different ways. Walk or bike with your children where it is safe. Go on a hike together. Play chase.

When possible, instead of hearing “beep,” this month encourage your family to be hearing feet!

Check with local schools for their walk and bike promotions and read upcoming editions of the News for more details.

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