To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Reading the Jan. 12 article, "Just 1 in 4 young teens meet US fitness guidelines," it is easy to become discouraged. The study says 75 percent of young teens are not getting enough exercise on a daily basis to keep them healthy, and 17 percent of children are obese. Additionally, only 13 percent of children walk to school today versus 48 percent in 1969. However, two state programs are working in Berkshire County to reverse these trends.
Mass in Motion and Be Well Berkshires, a Mass in Motion initiative, are working to increase the amount of physical activity children get before, during and after school. This involves creating Safe Routes to School (SRTS), so parents and children feel more comfortable about walking to and from school. Around Berkshire County, SRTS projects include improving the area around Conte Community School to make walking a safer alternative.
In Clarksburg, trails were cleared which will allow students to walk during the school day, and in the future walk to school along these trails. Three "Bike to School" days were organized and one is planned for the spring.
Monument Mountain High School, in conjunction with MassBIKE, will have an after school bicycle program to teach students many aspects of biking, including safety. Not everyone can walk to school, so SRTS works with the schools to add more physical activities. The health benefits of walking and biking are enormous -- and low-cost or free! These include decreasing risks for serious illnesses, keeping weight down and increasing the ability to focus and learn.
I encourage schools and towns to join or expand their Safe Routes to School program, as a step in the right direction. For more information, the contact for Adams, North Adams, and Clarksburg is Amanda Chilson at Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, (413) 663-7588. In Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, and Great Barrington, contact me at Be Well Berkshires (413) 445-7028).
The writer is project coordinator, Be Well Berkshires, a Mass in Motion initiative on BMC’s Hillcrest campus.