MANHATTAN, Kan. – Now is the time to mark your calendar – and get ready to dust off your walking shoes.
K-State Research and Extension has announced March 17 to May 11 as the dates for the 2013 edition of Walk Kansas, its annual eight-week fitness challenge.
The springtime offering has become a perennial activity with many in Kansas, said Sharolyn Jackson, state program coordinator, who noted that the team approach is appealing because the goal is shared.
Walk Kansas challenges teams of six to log regular physical activity equivalent to walking the 423 miles from the state’s east to west borders.
Choosing to do it together allows team members to do something that most could not do alone, said Jackson, who noted that the program, which will begin its 12th year, is intended to encourage inactive individuals to add enjoyable, health-promoting physical activity to their everyday lives.
There’s no need to join a gym. Most people like to walk in their neighborhood or near their workplace during a lunch hour or break, said Jackson, who added that Walk Kansas is becoming increasingly popular as a workplace wellness program.
The program also remains popular with friends, neighbors and families because they can do it together, she said.
The fact that participants can add physical activity at a time and place that works with them also is a plus, said Jackson, who noted that walking for 15 minutes twice a day can be just as effective as a longer workout in achieving 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week.
Many who participate begin to realize benefits – more restful sleep, greater ability to manage stress, increased energy level, improved muscle tone, drop in blood pressure are examples – fairly soon.
Physical activity also can be helpful in managing arthritis and has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, Jackson said.
Adding physical activity also is helpful in managing weight, and Jackson said that previous participants often report pounds and inches lost.
And, while physical activity certainly contributes to better health, she noted that Walk Kansas participants receive weekly encouragement via a nutrition and health newsletter, and are asked to track fruit and vegetable consumption, with a goal of increasing health-promoting foods and decreasing foods that are higher in calories and fat and offer fewer health benefits.
“We encourage following the USDA recommendations for ‘Choose MyPlate,’” said Jackson, who said that the newsletter also includes recipes to encourage participants to incorporate a variety of foods into meals and snacks.
Walk Kansas participants also are encouraged to add strengthening exercises two days each week, and to choose water, rather than sugary beverages.
Walk Kansas is offered in each of Kansas 105 counties. The cost to participate varies, but usually is $10 or less. T-shirts are optional and available for an additional cost.
And for teams who prefer a greater challenge, Jackson suggested options, such as walking across the state and back, or around the state.
More information about Walk Kansas and registration in your area is available at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state, and online.
Sharolyn Jackson is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences area specialist. She is based in Manhattan, Kan.