It's January . . . that wonderfully hopeful time of year when we resolve to do better. We vow to get in shape, to lose weight and to ditch all the other bad habits we have been accumulating for decades. If you're like many folks, you may be looking at the exact same list of resolutions that you had last year. Lifestyle changes are hard to make.
Research is continually discovering more health benefits to regular physical activity. As a nation, our sedentary lifestyle has contributed to health problems which science says can be reversed with a healthy diet and exercise. That seems like a simple solution, yet it's very difficult to make those lifestyle changes.
People who succeed over the long term are more likely to take small steps and make steady progress. Extreme diet and exercise makeovers may seem like great ideas, but they rarely last long enough.
Lifestyle changes are also more likely to be successful when people track their progress and when they have support from family, friends and coworkers.
A local program which incorporates these proven success techniques is the Walk Kansas program. It is an eight-week fitness challenge designed to help people develop the healthy habits of regular physical activity and a more nutritious diet. The goal is that after the program is over, those actions will become a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Participants in the program will record their physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption and report to their team captain each week. Weekly reporting keeps participants accountable to themselves and their team. Support and encouragement are provided by teammates, the team captain and weekly newsletters provided by the extension office.
Each county will be offering a kick-off event and other activities for participants during the program.
The program is not intended as a competition between teams but a program to help participants set personal goals for a more healthy lifestyle. Teams do not have to exercise together, although the camaraderie of teammates is an encouragement for many. A statewide website will be used to post results of teams as the program progresses.
Teams are encouraged to cover the equivalent of the 423-mile distance across Kansas. If that doesn't seem far enough, teams can sign up to walk 1200 miles--the distance around the state's perimeter. Each participant is encouraged to get at least 150 minutes of activity each week. This is the recommendation established by the U.S. Health and Human Services in their 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans, http://www.health.gov/paguidelines.
Any form of physical activity may be counted, but walking is something which nearly everyone can do. Walking doesn't require expensive equipment--just a good pair of walking shoes. Walking also has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.
Dates for the program are March 18 through May 12. Registration deadline is March 5, if optional T-shirts are being ordered. All registrations should be turned in by March 9.
Cost is only $7 per person, with a cap of $15 for a family. T-shirts are an additional charge.
Remember, whatever your age or stage in life, regular physical activity can help you live a healthier life. Resolve to make time to be physically active. Find five friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family members to join you on a Walk Kansas team. Hopefully, by the end of the program, each team member will have established some healthy habits they can continue for a lifetime.
Contact your local Extension office if you have questions or would like a registration packet. Registration materials will be available after February 6, or online at www.southwind.ksu.edu.