Walk Kansas still moving forward

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Walk Kansas program, which tries to get people to be more active and eat healthier while figuratively walking across the state, is still going strong.

The eight-week venture, sponsored by Kansas State University, has attracted 49 teams with nearly 300 members in Bourbon County. Teams of six log their exercise and amount of fruit and vegetables eaten. Teams can either set a goal of having each member exercise two-and-a-half hours a week, or work out six hours per week.

With 15 minutes of exercise equaling one mile, teams enrolled in the first program set a goal of walking 423 miles, or the width of Kansas. Teams participating on the six-hour per week program attempt to walk 1,200 miles -- the perimeter of Kansas.

Local event organizer Ann Ludlum, with the K-State Research and Extension office in Bourbon County, said this year's program has been going well. Just five-and-a-half weeks in, she said several squads have already met their objective. She added this year is already looking better than previous walks.

"I think people are more serious about it than they were in previous years," she said. "I think people are beginning to realize that they all need to move more."

Ludlum said 17 teams have already met their goal and another 21 are on target to make the distance by the end of the program.

"That's pretty good, as there are always a few teams that don't make it," she said.

Ludlum added the fruits and vegetable counting has not gone as well. Only one team has recorded enough to meet the daily recommendation of four cups per person. Of the top 10 teams in miles, only five are also in the top 10 of fruit and vegetable consumption, she said.

"And we know that a healthy diet and physical activity are both important for a healthy lifestyle. Fruits and vegetables provide all those vitamins, minerals and fiber -- and few calories," she said.

Promoting success stories is one way motivation and inspiration are spread across the state during the program. Ludlum said the yarns include weight loss, an improvement in self-esteem, better fitting clothing, an improvement in tests from the doctor's office and feeling better overall. With two and a half weeks remaining, Ludlum has not received any success stories from participants, but she isn't worried yet.

"I know there are success stories, but I haven't gotten any turned in yet," she said.

Many Bourbon County contingents were formed in the workplace and she has heard stories of team captains working hard to encourage and motivate teammates.

One of the common misconceptions about the program stems from its name. According to the Walk Kansas website, walking is not the only activity that counts. Any moderate or vigorous activities, plus strength exercises can be counted. Ludlum noted it doesn't take an expensive gym membership and a great deal of time to be physically active. All you need is 10 minutes of moderate activity three times a day to improve your overall health, she said.

"You don't have pay for a membership and devote an hour to a gym. You can just get out and be active for 10 minutes at a time," Ludlum said.

At the conclusion of the eight weeks, participants will meet to weigh in and have their blood pressure checked to compare to the same measurements from the kick-off event. The Visioning a Healthier Bourbon County organization has provided funding to purchase a recumbent bike, a membership to Mercy Health for Life, a membership to Buck Run Community Center, a family swim pass and a gift certificate to for a new pair of walking shoes from J&W Sport Shop to be given away at the final celebration, Ludlum said.

More prizes given away to help encourage people to remain active after the program is over.

"This eight-week program isn't going to work miracles, but it is a start," she said.