October 3rd is Walk to School Day

October 3rd is Walk to School Day
Oct 03, 2012 - Oct 04, 2012

The rate of severe obesity among U.S. children and teenagers has more than tripled over the past three decades, a new study finds. Children are not only becoming obese, but becoming severely obese. The epidemic rise in childhood obesity rates has lead to addition of a new category on the children’s Body Mass Index Chart – Severely Obese.

“Obesity affects almost every organ in the body, and its impact is even more detrimental in children in that their bodies are still growing and developing,” said California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) President Karen Wrubel, DPM. “Disease consequences of obesity include increased cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke); increased rates of diabetes; breathing problems including asthma and sleep disturbances - namely sleep apnea; increased digestive and liver problems; and increased orthopedic problems, including degenerative joint disease of the back, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Obesity not only affects the body but also of the mind, leading to increased psychological and emotional problems including anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and social isolation.

“Our nation’s children have entered a perfect storm for becoming obese - consuming diets that are high in fat, sugar and salt, while engaging in an increasingly sedentary lifestyle where television, video games and computers have replaced biking, swimming, slides, swings and monkey-bars,” said Karen Wrubel, DPM, a podiatric physician in private practice in Hawthorne, California.

“The first step in fighting childhood obesity is preventing it. We need to get back to basics - healthy diets and exercise. Kids need to move! And, the simplest, most user-friendly and cost-effective means of achieving physical activity is WALKING. We (human beings) were designed to walk, which is fun, easy to do, free, just about the best health bargain around, and just about everyone can do it. A great way to get kids walking is by having them walk to school.

Each October, millions of children, parents, teachers, and community leaders across the globe walk to school to celebrate International Walk to School Month. Communities can choose to celebrate for a day during Walk to School Day on October 3; Walk to School Week October 1-5; or the entire month of October with International Walk to School Month. To register to participate go to www.Walkbiketoschool.org

“There are plenty of great reasons to walk to school – less traffic, cleaner air – but one of the best is that children and parents will be healthier. With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, and only one-quarter of Americans currently getting the Surgeon General's recommended daily dose of exercise (just 30 to 45 minutes), it's an ideal time to encourage children to walk to school for their own health and well-being,” Dr. Wrubel said.

How to Participate: Students are encouraged to walk for all or part of their way to school. If a student’s commute is too long or not pedestrian-friendly, he/she is encouraged to take a walk after lunch around the track or school grounds.

The Goal: Add Healthy Steps to Your Day: Walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day greatly reduces your risk of developing and/or dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. By finding a way to make walking part of each day, like walking to school, you are giving yourself proven health benefits.
Shoes: Walking shoes should be comfortable for walking for 30-60 minutes at a stretch.

“Care should be taken when purchasing shoes, especially children’s shoes,” said Dr. Wrubel. The California Podiatric Medical Association offers the following tips for buying shoes for children:

  • Ask if the assistant is a trained shoe fitter.
  • Buy shoes in the afternoon. Feet tend to expand throughout the day.
  • Examine the shoe itself. It should have a firm heel counter (stiff material on either side of the heel), adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends—at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the shoe.
  • The child’s foot should be sized while he or she is standing up and fully weight-bearing.
  • Always have both feet measured for length, and if they are two different sizes, shoes should be chosen that fit the larger foot best.
  • A newly fitted shoe should be approximately ½ inch longer than the longest toe. The child should be able to comfortably wiggle his or her toes in the shoe.
  • Have the child walk around the store for more than just a few minutes wearing the shoe with a normal sock. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe. Feel the inside of the shoe for any staples or irregularities in the glue that could cause irritation. Examine where the inside stitching hits the foot. Look for signs of irritation on the foot after the shoe is worn.
  • Avoid slip-on shoes. Shoes should be held on the foot with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings.
  • Heel height should be no more than 1.5 inches, lower for younger children.
  • The heel should have a broad base and be made from a shock-absorbing material.
  • Natural material uppers are best, i.e., leather.
  • The toe area of the shoe should be foot-shaped, and also deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed.
  • If your child wears prescription orthotics - biomechanical inserts prescribed by a podiatric physician—you should take them along to shoe fittings.
  • Safety First:
  • Encouraging children to walk in groups.
  • Organizing responsible adults to accompany the children as they walk to and from school.
  • Teaching and practicing safe pedestrian behavior on the walk to and from school.
  • Partnering with local police to enforce speeds in and around the neighborhood and school.
  • Provide crossing guards for children on their way to and from school.

Use a Pedometer: To promote weight loss and prevent weight gain use a pedometer. Studies have shown pedometers to be great motivators for adults and children alike for logging steps (kids make a game of it). Experts say if we all added 2000 more steps to our day, we wouldn't gain another pound. 

”Our aim is to have all Californians, especially kids, incorporate walking into their lives by making it a pleasure, not a chore. A walk can be an invigorating way to start the school or work day,” Dr. Wrubel said.

The California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the state’s leading professional medical organization for foot and ankle specialists and represents more than 1000 California doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). Since 1912 CPMA has served the people of California by promoting the science and art of podiatric medicine, protecting the public health, and elevating the standards of medical education.

CPMA; Committed to Keeping Californians on Their Feet – Healthy, Active and Productive!