Low-cost Walk Kansas program offers health benefits

It’s coming soon. K-State Research and Extension’s fitness challenge — Walk Kansas — is scheduled to begin March 16 through May 10. Now is a great time to begin forming teams in order to meet the registration deadline of March 10.

Linda Beech is Ellis County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Kansas State Research and Extension.

Linda Beech is Ellis County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Kansas State Research and Extension.

The low-cost fitness program attracted over 18,000 participants across the state last year.  It has also become a popular worksite wellness program in Kansas with many employers encouraging– or sponsoring– employees to participate. Last year, more than 225 people participated in Ellis County and logged enough miles to circle the globe!

A kick-off rally and mall walk will be offered March 8 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Mall in Hays to bring attention to Walk Kansas. Shoppers may learn more about the 8-week program, enjoy a self-paced walk in the mall and earn chances to win prizes. Team registration materials will also be available.

Walk Kansas encourages teams of six friends, family members, co-workers or church-mates to log enough exercise to compile 423 miles in eight weeks– equal to the distance across the state. If that seems too easy, teams may select from other more ambitious challenges– to log enough exercise to reach across the state and back (846 miles) or around the perimeter of Kansas. That’s 1200 miles!

Although introduced a decade ago to encourage walking, Walk Kansas has expanded to also count 15-minute intervals of moderate physical activity such as hiking, biking, swimming, water aerobics or other individual and team sports as one mile toward a Walk Kansas team goal.

The team approach helps make this fitness program flexible and fun. A little friendly peer pressure from teammates may be all that it takes to encourage some of us to get moving.  Being able to exercise alone or with others, on your own schedule and using your favorite activities also is a plus.

KSU research & extension

An additional feature of the Walk Kansas program is an emphasis on good nutrition along with exercise. Most Americans could be healthier simply by eating more fruits and vegetables each day. To encourage participants to include a diet rich in these healthful foods, cups of fruits and vegetables will be recorded along with minutes of exercise. The goal for each individual is to consume 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.

Most teams who enroll in Walk Kansas meet their goal. And, people who have participated in the program in recent years often will say they look better, feel better, have more energy, improved sleep habits, lower blood pressure, and notice a difference in how their clothes feel.

Regular moderate physical activity also is known to reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The cost to participate is affordable. A $18-per-team registration fee covers program materials, weekly email newsletters, and local activities. An optional T-shirt — this year’s color choices include turquoise, purple and gray — also can be purchased for an additional $7 for standard sizes, $8.50 for 2X and 3X sizes.

New this year, a student leadership team from Fort Hays State University will offer extra activities to enhance the Ellis County Walk Kansas experience. A dinner and training meeting is planned for team captains and all participants may attend a noon program on easy exercises and a group walk to the KSU Ag Research Center. Full details about these extra activities are included in the Walk Kansas materials.

Registration packets are available at the Ellis County Extension, 601 Main, Ste. A. Teams might pick up a registration packet anytime to be returned with completed registration forms and fees by March 10. For more information, call (785) 628-9430.

More information about Walk Kansas is available on the Ellis County Extension website at www.ellis.ksu.edu. You can also follow Walk Kansas on Facebook at “K-State Research and Extension-Ellis County” and “Kansas State University Walk Kansas.”

Linda K. Beech is Ellis County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences.