With more than 25,000 miles logged, Taylor County took first place in the 2015 Summer Steps walking challenge, organized by the West Virginia University Extension Service and the West Virginia Association of Counties.
The initiative was created to encourage community-based groups in counties across the state to increase activity levels by walking, cycling, swimming or participating in any other form of exercise.
From June 1 to Aug. 31, participants were able register and log miles into WVU Extension’s online tracker. In 2015 alone, counties more than doubled last year’s mileage with 44,000 miles logged—almost the equivalent of walking around the globe two times.
“We’re absolutely amazed with the participation in this year’s Summer Steps challenge,” explained Elaine Bowen, Ed.D. WVU Extension health promotions specialist. “Communities throughout the state truly came together to make an active lifestyle a priority this summer.”
Taylor County accounted for more than half of the total miles logged. In order to motivate the community to participate, Taylor County Extension Agent Jennifer Murray united the efforts of the Taylor County Board of Education and the local hospital. Each school created its own internal competition to encourage teams to participate.
“Taylor County really pulled together to form sustainable partnerships in order to create healthier workplaces and neighborhoods,” said Bowen. “Jennifer went above and beyond in ensuring this program was successful in her community.”
As the winner of the competition, Taylor County will receive a walkability assessment from the WVU Extension Service Community, Economic and Workforce Development program. Not far behind were second and third place counties, Monongalia and Kanawha.
A new spin on the Summer Steps challenge was added this summer when West Virginia residents who were also WVU employees had the option to log miles for their specific WVU department. With more than 4,207 miles behind them, the WVU Extension Service managed to bring home the title.
“We’re proud of not only our county residents but also those in our department who committed to setting goals and tracking miles in the name of friendly competition,” said Bowen.
Not only are the miles adding up across the state through walking initiatives, but they’re also adding up across the nation—proving walking is an easy way to get moving as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Most recently, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Ph. D launched Step it Up, a nationwide call to action on walking and walkable communities. The announcement calls on Americans to make walking a part of daily activity and to make strides in ensuring each community is a suitable place to walk.
“The physical and mental health benefits associated with an active lifestyle are undeniable. We believe that any member of a West Virginia county or WVU department who participated in this challenge came out a true winner,” said Bowen.
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
For more information on health and wellness initiatives in your community, contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service or visit ext.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.