Extension's Walk Kansas is easy, inexpensive fitness program
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Physicians and food and nutrition professionals typically recommend adding moderate and regular physical activity - 30 minutes five or more days a week - to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But, what if you're not athletic? Or don't have the time or money to join a gym or hire a babysitter?
Fitness programs such as Kansas State University Research and Extension's Walk Kansas encourage heart healthy aerobic exercise close to home, said Mike Bradshaw, Extension's health and safety specialist and state coordinator for the fitness program.
Here's how it works: Friends, family, co-workers or others, who may not know each other, but are assigned to the same team by the Extension office, log miles or minutes of alternate aerobic activity equal to the east-to-west distance across Kansas - 423 miles - in eight weeks.
"Knowing that others are counting on you can be a good motivator," Bradshaw said.
Some counties also schedule group walks or offer incentives, such as water bottle or lanyard for keys and identification.
"More than 90 percent of the teams who have participated in the program since its introduction in 2002 have met their goal," he said.
The fitness effort can't guarantee weight loss, but the benefits of exercise are many, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing the risks of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, such as colon cancer.
"Participants also report a happier outlook, increased energy and self confidence, stress reduction, more restful sleep, and weight loss," Bradshaw said. One member of Bradshaw's team who increased fruit and vegetable consumption while participating in the program credits it with helping her to lose 20 pounds and keep it off.
Not a walker? Fifteen-minute segments of alternate aerobic exercise such as bicycling, swimming, playing basketball or running count toward a team's total mileage, Bradshaw said.
This year, 99 of Kansas´ 105 counties have signed up to offer Walk Kansas for a minimal fee to cover the cost of nutrition and health newsletters, etc.
For registration or more information, Kansans can contact the county or district K-State Research and Extension office or Walk Kansas Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu/walk/.