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Bringing Back the Bike: Doctor Hopes Riding to School Together Can Improve Kids' Health

The Short of It

A group of Seattle, Wash., kids are serving as a test group for the premise that biking to school together means more for our children's futures than the end of expanding waistlines. A pediatrician is hoping that having kids ride bikes to school could help combat the childhood obesity crisis—while also cutting down on air pollution.

The Lowdown

Dr. Jason Mendoza is a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital, and he actually gave kids in a low-income Seattle neighborhood bicycles to ride to school together in bike trains with their classmates and adult volunteers as part of a children's health research project. He hopes the project can help chip away at the obesity crisis facing America's youth. Why low-income kids? Because according to Mendoza, they face an even higher risk of obesity-related health problems.

And those kids are already seeing the cardiovascular benefits.

Mendoza acknowledges that biking to and from school instead of driving won't mean the end of heavy kids. But consider that in the 1960s, nearly 50 percent of American kids walked or biked to school. In 2009, it was estimated that just 13 percent of children exercised their bodies en route to exercising their minds. And now twice as many kids are obese versus then.

Meanwhile, studies show that kids reap mental benefits, like increased concentration, from daily exercise.

And fewer cars and buses on the road could equal cleaner air. According to The Huffington Post, other benefits of biking to school include kids learning a sense of independence, less strain on public transportation budgets and less traffic.

"Bike trains seem like a small-scale local solution to some huge global issues we are facing right now," Maya Jacobs, a bike train leader and researcher at Seattle Children's, told The Huffington Post.

The Upshot

So, does this mean riding a bike to school is the perfect solution to the problems facing today's kids?

Not so fast. Plenty of neighborhoods—like mine—are not conducive for riding bikes to school. Traffic concerns, stranger danger and weather-related issues rank high on my list of reasons why I would never allow my daughters to pedal to school. Of course, a bike train, where students ride in groups with adult volunteers, could help to mitigate some of these issues.

But it's my view that we don't live in the 1960s anymore, so this idea isn't very realistic on a grand scale.

Do you like the idea of your child biking or walking to school?

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