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Get the Kids to Walk or Bike to School

By Kathy Hubbard
Today is International Walk to School Day. This is a global event with over 40 countries participating. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it. Our children, in our little rural community are joining with millions of other children not only around the country, but around the world to either walk or bicycle to school.
What a terrific teaching opportunity. It’s an opportunity for our young students to learn about other countries, to learn more about the environment in which they live and to learn more about taking control of their health.
“Walking and bicycling to school enables children to incorporate the regular physical activity they need each day while also forming healthy habits that can last a lifetime,” states the Walk Bike to School website. “Regular physical activity helps children build strong bones, muscles and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity.”
We know the consequences of being sedentary. Not getting enough exercise leads to heart disease, cancer, stroke and most commonly diabetes. We all know adults who decide to start an exercise regime after they’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease. How about teaching our children how to prevent them?
You’ve heard it said, but I’ll say it again. Children and adolescents need to get one hour of physical activity each day. That’s each and every day. Not just once a year on Walk to School Day. After all, some children can’t possibly walk to school because it’s too far and others wouldn’t get any exercise because their school is too close to home.
I found a website that said that a child should be able to walk about a half mile per birthday. But, that didn’t make much sense to me. It didn’t give a beginning or end age and I can’t imagine a two year old could walk a mile. I won’t begin to figure out how far I should be able to walk at my age. Wow, that’s half way to Coeur d’Alene!
But more reliable sources such as KidsHealth.org, say that children of all ages should do a variety of activities in order to work in the three elements of fitness. Those are endurance, strength and flexibility.
Walking is a great endurance exercise because it doesn’t take any special equipment. Well, a good sturdy pair of shoes is a good idea. Add jogging and running into the equation and the child will get a good aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart and improves the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
“One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or playing video games,” KidsHealth says. They also say that children under the age of two should be discouraged from any screen time and to “limit screen time in kids older than two to less than one to two hours a day of entertainment programming.”
What else can you do? You can lead by example. Get out there yourself. Take the whole family for a brisk walk every evening. You’ll all sleep better for it. Make it a part of your daily life like eating healthy foods and brushing your teeth. Make it fun, so the kids will look forward to it by altering the route or identifying trees or bird watching. We have so many great walking paths in and around town, take advantage of them.
Then, how about turning International Walk to School Day into Walk to School Everyday? Learning the proper rules for being a pedestrian or a cyclist will teach your child to be more responsible while helping them become healthier. What’s not to like?
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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