Walking to school is healthy for you, your community

Opinion

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International Walk to School Week is Oct. 3-7, 2005. This year, more than 3 million walkers from 36 countries will walk to school together?#34;all hoping to create communities that are safe places to walk. Now in its ninth year, Walk to School Week is expected to include 3,000 schools from all 50 states.

Why walk to school when it may seem easier to jump in the car?

? It's fun. What more can you say?

? To enhance the health of kids. Increased physical activity can combat a host of health problems facing kids today. With obesity rates skyrocketing and only one-quarter of Americans getting the Surgeon General's recommended daily dose of exercise (just 30 minutes), it's an ideal time to encourage people to walk to school for their own health and well-being.

?  To improve air quality and the environment. Walking to school protects the environment and your health. When children decide to lace-up their sneakers to walk, they reduce the amount of extremely dangerous air pollutants emitted by automobiles.

?  To make us smarter. Physical exercise is still one of the best ways to stimulate the brain and learning. The benefits of physical activity on a child's health are well documented. Children engaged in daily physical education show superior academic performance and attitude toward school.

?  To create safer routes for bicycling and walking. The promotion of bicycling and walking to school provides an opportunity to address safety. Every year, about 25,000 child pedestrians are injured by motor vehicles. Reducing the risk of injury includes teaching children pedestrian and bicycle skills (to read about the Safe Routes to School program, check out www.biketraffic.org/saferoutes). It also means reminding drivers to watch for others using the road. Hazardous conditions along routes to school need to be identified and fixed.

I encourage you to join in Walk to School Week by leaving the car in the garage and walking to school, the store, the park. To read more about Walk to School Week and to see which schools have registered, go to www.walktoschool-usa.org.

Pamela Brookstein

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