/ Modified apr 2, 2014 7:18 a.m.

Children’s Bike Club Promises Health, Community Benefits

Tucson Boys & Girls Club’s new bike club brings children outdoors; researchers say outdoor play boosts physical, mental health.

At the Boys & Girls Club’s Roy Drachman Clubhouse on Tucson’s South Side, the kids are doing something that’s increasingly unusual. They’re playing outside.

A new bicycle club is luring them out of doors—and into a new way of experiencing the world.

The bike club was born when Martha Moore-Monroy, REACH Program director for the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, noticed that very few children played or biked outside in the South Side neighborhood where she often worked.

“For me, that sort of breaks my heart because that’s the greatest part of childhood - you get that freedom, and doing it with your family, and it’s just a great activity and a great exercise,” she said.

Moore-Monroy set about studying why the community and its children spent so much time indoors. As in many other communities she has studied, she found a host of factors that were keeping people inside and limiting their opportunities to be healthy, including lack of resources to buy bikes and unsafe streets on which to ride.

Her findings came as no surprise to Roy Drachman Clubhouse Director Raphael Duarte.

“I’m from here and I still get kids cussing me out,” Duarte said. “Not too long ago there was a lady sitting at the table here and some kids were throwing rocks at her and her daughter for no reason. So I see why they don’t ride.”

Whether it’s lack of resources or concerns about safety that keep them in, kids everywhere are spending less time outside, researchers say.

Studies suggest the average child has 25 percent less free play time today than in 1981, and only spends about half as much time outdoors. Adults are also spending less time in nature. And children and adults are spending more and more time — an average of eight hours a day — in front of screens.

Scientists say that disconnect between people and the outdoors comes with a cost, because seeing and being in nature benefits both physical and mental health.

The Roy Drachman Boys and Girls Clubhouse, 5901 S. Santa Clara, is hosting Bike-In-Baile on Saturday, April 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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