Hoosiers putting brakes on childhood obesity with Bike to School Day

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WESTFIELD, IND. — Hoosiers put a spotlight on encouraging healthier lifestyles for children Wednesday, as several schools celebrated National Bike to School Day.

Westfield is just one of many central Indiana cities and towns to get involved, with Mayor Andy Cook, the school corporation and police department teaming up to provide safe routes for students and their parents to use.

“Walking to school [and] biking to school, [to] a lot of us older folks, that’s all we knew,” said Cook.  “It’s kind of gone the other way.”

With the help of a $75,000 federal grant, Westfield’s police officers have been visiting schools and teaching kids about safely walking and bicycling to school, making Wednesday’s event just one step in a long-term process.

“We might be able to bite into some of the health and obesity issues with our kids,” Cook said, referring to childhood obesity epidemic plaguing Indiana and the nation.

According to statistics released in late 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 15.9 percent of high school students in Indiana are considered overweight.  The CDC said 16.6 percent of children aged two to four are overweight.

Dr. Lori Hurst, of the St. Vincent Bariatric Center of Excellence in Carmel, said she has seen young patients with early onset diabetes and hypertension.

Children should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, Hurst said, because physical activity plays an even larger role in a child’s health than an adult’s.

“[Experts] think it’s about 50 percent physical activity, 50 percent diet with kids,” she said.  “For adults it’s about 75 percent diet and 25 percent physical activity.”