ST. PAUL, Minn. – Many around the country celebrate National Bike or Walk to School Day today, including more than 200 schools in Minnesota. Research shows that a little exercise on the way to school could help kids and communities all year long.
“Kids who have this opportunity to walk or bike to school and get some physical activity before the school day starts are better learners,” said Michelle Kiefer, who works on a program called Safe Routes to School for the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance. ” The community, in itself, is healthier when there is more walking and biking happening.”
Fifty years ago, nearly half of school kids walked or biked to school, but now it’s closer to 13 percent.
Rachel Callanan, who chairs the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition, said there’s bipartisan support to do better.
“So, what we’re hoping to do at the Minnesota Legislature,” she said, “is to secure additional resources for those schools that are trying to piece together that infrastructure – complete that sidewalk, improve the crosswalks, that sort of thing – so that they can encourage more kids to walk and bike to school.”
A recent study in New York showed census tracts with Safe Routes to School programs saw a 44 percent drop in school-aged pedestrian injury before and after school, while locations without Safe Routes to School interventions stayed the same.
Callanan said decades of research proves that walking or biking to school helps fight obesity, improves learning and may even save school districts money.
“The more kids that are walking and biking, the less money that they may have to spend on transportation,” she said, “but it needs to be safe.”
According to the American Heart Association, walking one mile to and from school each day is two-thirds of the recommended level of daily physical activity.
Safe Routes to School information is online at dot.state.mn.us.