Encourage your kids to walk, bike to school

Every fall, kids, parents and teachers come together across the country to partake in National Walk & Roll to School Day. This year’s event is set for Oct. 4, with over 1,500 schools already registered.

The Heart Network’s Creating Healthy Schools & Communities program works with schools and communities on policies and projects that promote physical activity for both kids and adults. One of our biggest points of emphasis is finding easy ways to incorporate more physical activity into a child’s life.

The health benefits of walking, rolling and biking to school are clear: Regular activity promotes the physical development of children and adolescents, decreasing the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke later in life.

It’s also good for the brain — students who get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet perform better in the classroom. Self-propelled transportation also benefits the environment, reducing air pollutants and making the world around us a safer, healthier place. And perhaps most importantly, it’s fun — there’s a sense of joy and independence in walking and riding to and from school, and it instills a sense of self-reliance and responsibility in young people.

National Walk & Roll to School Day, and its companion event in the spring, National Bike & Roll to School Day, are also opportunities for kids, teachers, families and local leaders to think about promoting safe, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

Through our CHSC program in Franklin County, The Heart Network has worked with communities like Malone, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake to develop Complete Streets policies that prioritize well-maintained sidewalks, safe road crossings and even alterations to traffic patterns, all with a goal of maximizing safety for pedestrians and motorists.

We hope to see local schools sign up for Walk & Roll to School Day, but more importantly we want to continue the conversation about making our communities safe places that encourage walking, rolling and biking to school. To learn about our CHSC program, get in touch with me anytime: apatraw@heartnetwork.org.

To register your school for Walk & Roll to School Day, visit walkbiketoschool.org/registration.

(Arriana Patraw is the community health improvement coordinator at The Heart Network in Saranac Lake. To learn more, visit heartnetwork.org.)

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