By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Children playing on school grounds

More sidewalks and bike lanes are being added to lower-income Colorado communities after the state recently approved $2.5 million in funding for the Safe Routes to School program for the 2015-2016 school year.

Only one in four Colorado youths get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Barb Parnell, Ph.D., is the community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado and is working with one of the school districts that received funding.

“It wasn’t safe to walk to schools across the main roads,” Parnell said. “Now that [the students] have sidewalks and crosswalks on the main highway, it is safe.”

Safe Routes to School is a national program established by Congress in 2005. Since then, nearly 18,000 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have participated in the program, reaching more than 6.8 million students nationwide, according to a 2015 report from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Parnell educates parents about the benefits of letting children walk to school: better classroom behavior, more focused attitudes and safety skills. Children also learn how to navigate sidewalks, crosswalks and ramps.