Do you remember learning to walk? Probably not, but for most of us, learning to walk is one of our first great achievements. Walking opened up the world to us, and gave us a feeling of autonomy. It’s also a relatively easy way of getting daily exercise. It’s a first joy and one of the last things we would want to give up .

A generation ago, in this country as well as in most developed countries, most children walked to school or rode a bike. But according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the number of children walking or bicycling to school has declined greatly.

In 1969, 48 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 walked or rode a bike to school. By 2009, that number had dropped to 13 percent, and today it’s at 12 percent.

We’re all familiar with lines of cars dropping off and picking up kids outside any school. Across the country, poor design of neighborhoods, lack of sidewalks and schools being built on the edge of communities have all led to fewer students being able to safely walk to school.

In a 2005 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents cited heavy traffic as the main barrier to allowing their children to walk to school.

The result is that children don’t get adequate exercise, and auto fumes often surround the entrances to schools.

Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity, inadequate exercise is a significant issue facing communities, including our own.

In recent years, communities have tried different approaches to increase the numbers of children walking to school.

One successful approach is the Walking School Bus—an organized group of kids who walk along a designated route to school under the supervision of adult volunteers. Walking School Buses have been adopted by school districts around the world.

In the Blue Zones Project Demonstration Community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 17 schools are taking steps to get students moving more, which include implementing Walking School Buses, brain breaks and additional recess and physical education time. Walking School Buses have allowed more than 700 students from those schools to walk to school with the safety of adult chaperones rather than coming by bus or car.

Both children and parents enjoy the experience of walking to school together. They all get exercise, interact with friends and their neighborhood, and gain a sense of accomplishment.

“Walking with your kids to school gives you a quality moment,” said Julie Dancer, a Walking School Bus coordinator and volunteer in Iowa City, Iowa.

Come and see a Walking School Bus in action at the Blue Zones Project community-wide kickoff on Monday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at UCC’s Jacoby Auditorium.

This free event will feature other well-being exhibits, like examples of a healthy worksite, restaurant and grocery store checkout stand.

Local entertainment will include the RHS Marching Ensemble and the Nebo Thunder drummers. Meander through the well-being fair from 5 to 6 p.m., sampling healthy food and collecting vendor giveaway items. Hear from local leaders at 6 p.m. about why Blue Zones Project was selected as a partner to help our community live longer and better. Also hear from National Geographic explorer Nick Buettner about his travels to the original Blue Zones regions and the ways that we’ll be putting their secrets of longevity to work here in our community.

To RSVP, go to the website at http://go.bluezonesproject.com/Umpqua/Kickoff, email bluezonesprojectumpqua@sharecare.com or call 541-670-2305.

Burt Tate is a member of the Blue Zones Project Schools Sector Committee.

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Reporter

Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

(1) comment

Mogie

Be honest most parents are "too busy" to walk their kids to school. Guess it boils down to what you care about the most.

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