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KY Kids Hit the Road in "Walk to School" Effort

October 7, 2010

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - Health and youth advocates want kids to stride or spin their way to a healthier, active lifestyle as the month-long "walk to school" effort kicks off nationwide and in Kentucky.

According to Andrea Plummer, the Kentucky Safe Routes to School Network organizer, students in Bowling Green, Lexington, Louisville, Murray and Southgate are among those pounding or pedaling the pavement this week in hopes that a one-day event will spark a new fitness habit.

"We want our children to be healthy and more physically active. Walking or biking to school is one way that they can achieve that."

Plummer says research shows that children who regularly walk or bike to school are more physically active throughout the day and less likely to be overweight or obese. Currently, Kentucky tips the scales as the nation's third highest in childhood obesity.

Less auto emissions and fewer traffic-clogged roads, Plummer adds, are other advantages of the walk-to-school movement.

"'Safe Routes to School' encourages us to have the appropriate infrastructure - sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes - so that children are able to walk and bike to school, so that also encourages walkable and bikeable communities in general."

Plummer admits the effort is challenging for rural areas with narrow roads and longer distances to school. However, she points out that since 2005, federal dollars have been available for schools to make walking and biking safer and more convenient.

"You could arrange a 'walking school bus' where there's a parent volunteer who picks up kids along the way. This is a great day to kick that off, but it can be done throughout the entire year as well."

Plummer says fewer than 15 percent of Kentucky kids walk or bike to school, because it's either unsafe or inconvenient. On Wednesday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear proclaimed October as "Walk to School Month."

Information about Walk to School is available at www.walktoschoolorg. Kentucky's "Safe Routes to School" program is explained at www.saferoutes.ky.gov.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY