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Advocates: National Bike or Walk to School Day "Good For MN Children"

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The portion of school children who walk or bike to school has dramatically declined over the last 50 years. (Pixabay)
The portion of school children who walk or bike to school has dramatically declined over the last 50 years. (Pixabay)
 By Dan HeymanContact
October 1, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Wednesday is National Bike or Walk to School Day, and participants say this is a good time to look at how Minnesotans can clear the path for students.

Dorian Grilley is executive director with the Bike Alliance of Minnesota. He said getting to and from school can be a simple way to ensure young people get as much as 40 minutes of the recommended hour of exercise they need each day. And he said that's a big deal for their physical and mental health.

"Kids that get the recommended level of physical activity actually learn better,” Grilley said. “They're healthier, they learn better, and I think that's a great investment in our future."

Grilley said thousands of students around the state will be celebrating the day by walking or biking to school. And he said the state could help make that a habit by investing in the Safe Routes to School program - which, among other things, pays for more sidewalks and safe road crossings.

Grilley said his own son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. But instead of treating him with medication, he and his wife decided to handle it in other ways - which included biking to school. He stressed he's not a health professional, but he thinks it helped.

"By the time he graduated from high school, he was riding to school every day. And the attention deficit disorder just kind of slowly disappeared,” he said.

According to the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition, 50 years ago, nearly half of all students walked to school. Now, only 13% do so, while childhood obesity rates have risen by more than a quarter. The coalition pointed to the Safe Routes to School program as a way to address these changes, through everything from crossing guards to school safety programs.

But Grilley said as it stands, the program has been able to fund less than one-third of the requests it receives.

"For the last two bonding bills, the Legislature has included $1 million,” he said. “But I'm hoping for $3 million - $5 million, which would grant funds for maybe more than 50% of the requests."

More information is available at MNHealthyKids.org.

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