August 1, 2015

Safe Routes to School: A Matter of National Security

How Childhood Obesity Today Risks the Military’s Viability Tomorrow

Helping children achieve a healthy weight is critical for national security

Obesity is the leading medical reason why 71% of young Americans ages 17-24 are ineligible for military service. Nearly one-third of young adults today are too overweight to qualify. Childhood obesity is a threat to the overall health of Americans, and also to the future strength of our military.

More obese, less active

Thirty years ago, just 5.5 percent of the nation’s children were obese. That rate has since tripled; today, an estimated 17 percent of American children are obese, and nearly one-third are either overweight or obese. The average 10-year-old is 12 pounds heavier than a child was in 1970. Compounding the issue is the fact that the amount of time Americans spend on physical activity has dropped by one-third since 1965.

Walking, biking to school on the decline

48 percent of children walked or biked to school in 1969. Since then, this number has dropped more than 70 percent, while the number of children being driven to school has increased by a proportionate amount. This reversal is due to a number of factors, including parental concerns about safety, poor infrastructure, and increasing distances between schools and homes.

Safe Routes to School important part of the solution

Safe Routes to School programs help fight childhood obesity by encouraging kids to be physically active on their way to and from school. Research shows that Safe Routes to School programs can result in walking and biking increases of approximately 40 percent over five years.

How can you help?

  • Get the word out! Share our digital motion graphic on your social media outlets.

  • Support increased funding for Safe Routes to School programs at the federal and state levels.

  • Speak up and encourage your local elected officials to design communities that support physical activity, such as building new schools within walking distance of residential areas.

  • Help to start or improve your own Safe Routes to School program within your school community.

  • Lead by example and walk or ride when you can.


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