Walking for Health - It’s a good time to kick off a new healthy habit!

Senator Jackie Winters
Senator Jackie Winters thanks the public health partnership in her speech on National Walking Day.
Four people walking
Both physical and mental fitness may be improved by regular walking.
Sign on lawn
OSU Extension Public Health Interns posted colorful signage showing factoids about walking benefits.
Gabriel Heredia holding sign

By Mary Stewart

Salemites are making great strides in improving both physical and mental fitness by simply taking a walk. Organized walking programs have blossomed all over Salem and its suburbs, and walkers are noticing that stepping off the miles is making a difference to their personal health.

“Walking programs encourage people to be active, which leads to healthier bodies,” says Tonya Johnson, Oregon State University Extension Public Health Faculty in Marion and Polk counties.

The fitness programs sprang out of the starting blocks in 2009 when Oregon Senators Peter Courtney and Jackie Winters formed a community initiative to prevent diabetes. The outcome of their task force’s work was to adopt the 5210 program, which encourages people to:

  •  Aim for 5 fruits and vegetables every day;
  • Keep recreational screen time to less than 2 hours every day;
  • Include 1 hour or more of play / exercise each day;
  • 0 Skip sugar sweetened beverages – drink more water each day.

One of the many community health initiatives is the Just Walk Salem Keizer program, which is one of Salem’s more active walking efforts, according to Johnson. The expanded program was funded by a community partnership grant from Salem Health.

Walk organizer Jeanine Stice is a convener of many community walks in the Salem area. According to Stice, she and Johnson have worked together for several years—along with many other partners—to create a strategy and build resources for the walking programs.

Stice says Sen. Jackie Winters has been key to moving the fitness program into schools, and has provided continuous overall support and connections since its inception.

Sen. Winters spoke to the group assembled at the Capitol building on National Walking Day—April 5—and thanked the fitness partnership, stressed the public health benefit, and started off the walking event with: “Let’s walk around the Capitol as we celebrate ourselves.”

A “Passport to Health” activity is underway in the local community to encourage walking. When using the passport, walkers complete at least one of the five community walks before June 18.

Completed passports may be turned in to the OSU Extension office in Marion County, Center 50+, Salem Health CHEC, or one of the Just Walk Salem Keizer walk leaders.” Completed passports will be entered into a drawing for prizes.

For a list of “Passport to Health” walks, visit justwalksalem.com.

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