Yes, we really can!

This week I decided to try something a little different and let a friend of mine take the podium. And her topic dovetails nicely with a post I am writing for next week.

Ann Richardson is a friend (disclaimer) and a former colleague of mine from my newspaper days. She shares a lot of my views and we both think it is because we share the same birthday! Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next Sunday’s post when I share my two cents worth with you about the great health care reform debate!

If you’ve been watching the news lately, it’s no secret that obesity in the United States has exploded. Recent statistics say that over half of all adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.

And unfortunately, obesity is becoming all too common in our children, too – disproportionately affecting minority kids (African American, Native American, and Hispanic).

Being overweight as a kid increases the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression, and Type 2 diabetes.

In 2000, the total cost of obesity for children and adults in the United States was estimated to be $117 billion ($61 billion in direct medical costs).

We need to do something – NOW – because all of this is preventable.

I was delighted to hear that Michelle Obama has made it her own personal crusade to fight childhood obesity during her tenure as First Lady.

Mrs. Obama has at least one ally in her fight – and he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

I learned about Rob Nagler when I ran across an article in Sunset magazine about the nonprofit organization he founded whose goal is to make walking and biking to school a part of every kid’s daily routine.

According to the article in Sunset, in 1969 about 88% of kids who lived within a mile of their grade schools either walked or biked to school. Today, only about 16% do.

That’s a statistic that Nagler decided to help change – starting with his own two kids and their classmates at their Boulder, Colorado school.

Nagler, a computer engineer, found a way to track kids who rode their bikes or walked to school by installing a solar-powered scanning device at school. The device reads an ID tag placed on a child’s backpack or bike helmet and uploads the data into an online database.

Each child (and the school) can track their progress – and keep tabs on the “incentives” that each kid earns as he/she racks up the miles. The incentives are small, but fun – like colored plastic bracelets that denote a different level of achievement; stickers; and the ultimate in cool prizes: an iPod.

Boltage is a very successful program. Fifteen schools in four states have installed the devices and have programs of their own.

But don’t take my word for it: check out the scoreboard on their site.

As of Dec. 1, 2009, the kids have:

  • Walked/biked more than 258,000 miles
  • Burned more than 9.2 million calories
  • Saved 24, 306 gallons of gasoline
  • Made 184,423 round trips between home/school
  • Saved 482,083 lbs. of carbon

Pretty impressive!

The kids love it.

And they’re learning to make exercise part of their daily routine – while reaping the health benefits of an active lifestyle and doing what they can to help the environment.

Boltage’s goal is to reach 40,000 public schools – will your school be the next one to start a program?

If you want to start a Boltage program at your local school, click this link to the Boltage website.  If you want to read more about the Boltage story, click this link to a PDF copy of the story I read in Sunset magazine.