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Walk Kansas Program is March 19 - May 13

Walk KansasWalk Kansas, a program that's open to anyone who's interested in working toward or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, this year runs from March 19 to May 13. It is for all fitness levels.

The eight-week program is team-based, with six people to a team. Participants do not have to live in Kansas. Many teams form with family members or friends in other parts of the country and around the world. "Technology connects us," said Sharolyn Jackson, K-State Research and Extension family and consumer science specialist and Walk Kansas coordinator.

"Walk Kansas addresses critical issues in our state," Jackson said. "Less than half of Kansas adults meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity (150 minutes a week of moderate exercise) and only 19 percent eat enough fruits and vegetables. Chronic disease is responsible for more than 70 percent of health care costs."

If Americans were to stop smoking, exercise regularly and eat well, they could prevent up to 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type 2 diabetes and 40 percent of cancers, she said, citing the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

"Think of health as something you earn every day, just like you work to bring home a paycheck," Jackson said. "If you practice healthy lifestyle behaviors, you can delay and even prevent chronic disease. If you have an illness, symptoms can be managed better if you make choices that support a healthy lifestyle."

For most Walk Kansas participants, the cost is less than $10. Purchasing a t-shirt is optional. Registration is available at most K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Walk Kansas website at www.walkkansas.org. Participants are encouraged to register by March 10, but check with the local extension office for registration deadlines.

Teammates do not have to walk or exercise together, but are encouraged to connect and support each other. Participants receive a weekly emailed newsletter which includes articles about health, including tips on how to manage stress. Many local programs in Kansas offer special events and classes for participants.

Participants log minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise daily and report online or to a team captain. Activities besides walking, such as strengthening exercises, yoga, bike riding, team sports and others count toward Walk Kansas minutes.

The goal is to meet one of three challenges the team sets for itself before the program starts:

  • Challenge 1 – Each person reaches the minimum goal for physical activity – 2-1/2 hours of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week. Collectively the team would walk 423 miles – the equivalent of the distance across the state of Kansas.
  • Challenge 2 – Take the equivalent of a meandering trek diagonally across the state from Troy to Elkhart. Each person logs four hours of activity per week which would take the team 750 miles.
  • Challenge 3 – Walk the equivalent of the perimeter of Kansas – 1,200 miles – with each person logging six hours of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week.

Walk Kansas began in 2001 and now reaches more than 14,000 a year. More than 254,000 people have participated since it began.

"Health brings a freedom we often take for granted until we no longer have it," Jackson said. "Preserving and protecting your health is what Walk Kansas is all about."

For more information locally, contact Jamie Rathbun at the Midway Extension Office in Russell at 785-483-3157 or in Ellsworth at 785-472-4442. Her email address is [email protected] Their website is http://www.midway.k-state.edu/.

K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.

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(Story by Mary Lou Peter.)

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