The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Biking, walking projects in Pottstown help promote healthy lifestyle


By Evan Brandt, ebrandt@pottsmerc.com

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

POTTSTOWN — A $1 million grant to create six miles of new bike lanes and to improve sidewalks for walking is about more than concrete and paint.

To Pottstown Schools Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, it’s about health and it’s about the future.

In short, it’s about the exercise.

Last summer, the school district gathered staff and health experts for the “Healthy Minds/Healthy Bodies” initiative at The Hill School to explore the district’s new emphasis on health and the importance of physical activity in sparking healthy brain activity.

Built in to class schedules in Pottstown are mini-brain breaks during which brief periods of “brain energizing activities” keep the learning juices flowing.

Healthy snacks are served, sweets discouraged and the physical education curriculum has been augmented to include teaching about healthy lifestyle choices as part of the district’s initiative.

The district even has a full-time “wellness coordinator,” courtesy of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.

So a joint project with the borough that seeks to improve and encourage safe walking and biking to school by making improvements to bike lanes and sidewalks is a perfect fit, Sparagana said.

“This helps our students, and their parents, understand the benefits of stepping away from the big SUV, from the gasoline that people use, and use your body’s own energy to get where you need to go and to enhance your sense of health at the same time,” he said.

Sparagana agreed that much like the success of recycling was driven by teaching children its importance, helping Pottstown develop a healthier lifestyle may come about as students now in school grow up to appreciate its benefits.

“We’re helping them to learn that when you take care of your body, you’re healthier, you feel better and you’re more productive,” he said. “And walking and biking to school is all part of making sure you stay active.”

Follow Evan Brandt on Twitter @PottstownNews