Walk Kansas offers new start on fitness this spring

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fort Scott, Kan. -- For many people, the new year may bring resolutions to lose weight or exercise more, and an upcoming statewide program can help those people do just that.

Walk Kansas is a statewide eight-week fitness challenge sponsored by the Kansas State Research and Extension Office that is scheduled to take place March 8 -- May 2. This is the eighth year that Bourbon County residents have participated in the program, which is designed not as a competition, but to help individuals and teams set goals that will help them establish healthy lifestyle habits.

"We want it to be an eight-week program where they (participants) will develop habits and continue it for a lifetime," K-State Research and Extension Family and Consumer Science Agent Ann Ludlum said. "We don't want everybody to feel like it's a competition."

The program's main purpose is to encourage people to make time for daily exercise and to eat healthier foods, even when juggling a busy schedule. Because nutrition is part of a healthy lifestyle, participants will be urged to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat, Ludlum said.

"We're not concentrating on the whole diet, just fruits and vegetables," she said. "They should have four and a half cups a day. We want to improve that aspect of their diet."

During the program, participants will keep track of their daily physical activity and the number of cups of fruits and vegetables they consume. Time recorded should only be time that is devoted to physical activity such as walking, jogging, running, cycling or other moderate exercise.

Collectively, the goal of each six-member team is to walk or participate in other physical activity equivalent to 423 miles; the distance across Kansas from east to west.

Walking is emphasized in the program because it is an activity in which most people can participate; because it can be done at a time and location that is convenient to each person; and because it has been proven that walking is the form of physical activity with the lowest dropout rate. Other forms of exercise, done for at least 10 minutes at a time, may be counted as well toward the accumulation of miles needed to 'walk' Kansas, according to the Walk Kansas Web site, www.walkkansas.org.

If each team member meets the minimum physical activity recommendations, they would be able to complete the distance across Kansas during the program, Ludlum said.

"If they really want to, most people can meet those goals," she said. "Committing time to exercise for many people is difficult, but they need to make time every day for it."

Each member will be responsible for 150 minutes of physical activity each week; a recommendation established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the agency's 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The activity may be done together as a group or individually.

With each team member participating, the 423-mile distance is attainable, Ludlum said.

"The point of the program is that we want it to be an added incentive (for people) to meet those (fitness) goals," Ludlum said. "Of course, you don't want to let your team down. I think being able to help your teammates, the camaraderie of the team, and being accountable to them should help too. The team aspect makes the program successful."

Teams, which may consist of family members, friends, neighbors or coworkers, will choose one person to serve as the team captain. The captain will be responsible for collecting weekly totals from team members and reporting those figures to the local county extension office or the Walk Kansas Web site. Participants will also receive weekly newsletters that will contain updates on team progress, healthy lifestyle information on physical activity, stress management and healthy eating tips, and recipes.

An optional weight-loss competition will also be offered during the local program. Team members may choose to record his or her weight at the beginning and conclusion of the program. The team with the greatest total weight loss at the end of the program will receive individual memberships to the fitness center at Buck Run Community Center. The progress of local and statewide teams will be posted at www.walkkansas.org.

The cost to register for the program is $6 per person, or $15 per family. Optional T-shirts may be purchased for an additional charge. The deadline to register is Wednesday, Feb. 25, for those people ordering T-shirts.

All registrations must be turned into the K-State Research and Extension Office of Bourbon County on the first floor of the Bourbon County Courthouse by Friday, Feb. 27. Extension office hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Registration forms are also available on the Bourbon County Extension Web site at www.bourbon.ksu.edu.

A kick-off event will be conducted starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 7, in the Fort Scott Community College Round Room. At this event, teams will be recognized, pre-ordered T-shirts will be distributed, and prizes will be awarded. Rich Wallace, a personal trainer at Mercy Health for Life, will share his enthusiasm and motivation for being physically active.

At the conclusion of the program, teams and individuals will be recognized for their accomplishments and all attendees will be eligible for prizes during a final celebration.

Last year, 48 teams and 288 individuals exercised an equivalent of 32,483 miles and ate 41,651 cups of fruits and vegetables during the local program.

For more information, call Ludlum at (620) 223-3720.

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