October 8 is International Walk to School Day

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In Celebration of International Walk to School Day on October 8, the California Podiatric Medical Association Weighs in on Childhood Obesity and Offers Healthy Walking Tips

California Podiatric Medical Association

Your feet shouldn't hurt

“Physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“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 they are tethered to computers, television, video games, tablets, and smartphones, which have replaced running, biking, swimming, slides, swings, and monkey bars,” said California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) President Thomas J. Elardo, DPM.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the rate of severe obesity among US children has doubled, and for teenagers has more than tripled, over the past three decades. Children are not only becoming obese, they are becoming severely obese. The epidemic rise in childhood obesity rates has led to the 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 Dr. Elardo, a podiatric physician and surgeon in private practice in Los Gatos, California. “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 the mind, leading to increased psychological and emotional problems including anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and social isolation.

“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, and just about the best health bargain around, and almost 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 during Walk to School Day on October 8; Walk to School Week October 6-10; or the entire month of October.

Sponsored by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, Walk to School Day was first established in the U.S. in 1997 with the purpose of promoting health, safety, physical activity and concern for the environment. Now in its 17th year, Walk to School Day has grown into an international event with more than 40 countries participating.

“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 fewer than 2 in 10 Americans (according to the CDC) currently getting the 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. Elardo 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 grab some friends and take a walk during lunch around the track or school grounds.

THE GOAL: Add Healthy Steps to the 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, one is giving oneself proven health benefits.

SAFETY FIRST:

  •     Encourage children to walk in groups.
  •     Organize responsible adults to accompany the children as they walk to and from school.
  •     Teach and practice safe pedestrian behavior on the walk to and from school.
  •     Partner 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.

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. Elardo.

The California Podiatric Medical Association offers the following tips for buying shoes for children:

  •     Ask if the shop 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 the child wears prescription orthotics - biomechanical inserts prescribed by a podiatric physician – they should be taken along to shoe fittings.

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).

”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. Elardo concluded.

To find a local, licensed podiatric physician visit http://www.calpma.org.

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading and recognized professional organization for California’s doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their long and rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.

CPMA, Keeping Californians on their Feet – Healthy, Active and Productive.

http://www.calpma.org

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http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/09/1_in_20_us_children_classified.html
http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/sites/default/files/resources/kidswalk.pdf
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html
http://www.education.ca.gov/ta/tg/pf/documents/pft2004resultsv2.doc

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