We remember what it was like when we were kids. We walked to school, uphill, both ways. Our parents would lock us outdoors, letting us inside only for a few moments to scarf down some Ovaltine before the street lights turned on.

Obviously, those days are long in the rear view. Children running outside provoke fear and discomfort from the multi-tasking distractedly-driving public. Sports and activities are often pay-to-play, requiring both money and Herculean logistical feats and flexibility from working parents. Today’s kids curl around devices, and can order their favorite junk food delivered to their doors just with a few words to Alexa.

Surprising no one, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that kids gained weight during the pandemic, just like adults. The study found the average body-mass index increase for children and teens approximately doubled between 2018 and 2020, and that obesity rates of children and teens rose from 19 percent to 22 percent, as reported by Axios.

Eating disorders also rose in young people, according to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, which reported that kids admitted for complications of an eating disorder more than doubled between April 2020 and March 2021, compared to the mean for the last 3 years. Happily, school closures drove teen vaping down, but 2 million American teens still smoked e-cigarettes in 2021, according to Kaiser Health News.

Awareness of our kids’ health hurdles is crucial to helping them surmount them. Today we recognize the challenges families face and celebrate the strides we are making in creating communities safer for kids to be outside with International Walk to School Day.

Michigan kids join students from across the world in getting to school using “active transportation,” like foot or bike power. Norte heads up the program locally, and last year, got 1,100 kids to pledge — or “pinky swear” — to participate, with special honors awarded to the “Most Walktastic” school.

This year’s event is also tied to an All Children Exercise Simultaneously (ACES Day) effort.

Sure, back in the day, we didn’t need a special day for kids to exercise or walk to school. But the sooner we recognize today’s realities, the better. Children today are paying the price for our increasingly sedentary, increasing fast-paced, convenient-oriented lifestyle. Social media isn’t helping their body image and weight worries, either.

So today, join the movement for movement. Cheer for the kids on the road. Understand their road to health also winds uphill — both ways.

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