Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Encouraging Residents to Get Moving

NF Note: Come on Fayette County, let's get moving! There are numerous great places to walk in the county. The Peachtree City Cart Paths System is just one of them. Walk, we can do!

More than 3,000 Georgians exercised their way across the state this spring, so to speak, logging more than 500,000 virtual miles during the first session of the Walk Georgia Program.

Sponsored by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, the program is designed to help Georgians increase their physical activity, log their progress online and get communities involved.

“Friends and family challenged each other and used the program as an anchor,” said Sidney Law, UGA Extension coordinator in Washington County. “People who joined a team with their coworkers made it a group event and really increased their bond and morale.”

Not just for walkers

In addition to walking, activities such as aerobics, biking and gardening could be logged, too. The time spent exercising was converted into virtual miles. Participants could then use the miles to plot their courses.

From the mountains to the coast, they traveled online and learned interesting facts about counties along the way. The exercise logs gave participants concrete evidence of their accomplishments.

Washington County resident Mike Adams logged in hundreds of miles in the program and lost weight in the process.

“This walk across Georgia has motivated me to get back some things I have lost touch with, such as exercise,” Adams says. “I have lost 30 pounds since the first of the year and more so since the walk started. I will miss this when it’s gone, but I plan to continue walking for the rest of the year and hopefully the rest of my life.”

Motivating communities

Participants found ways to keep the whole community motivated, said Joann Milam, UGA Extension agent in Washington County. She wrote a weekly newspaper column about the program and participants in her county.

“The program really motivated people and made them accountable if they got off track,” Milam says. “Even if people weren’t motivated at first, the program got them hooked.”

Elaine Miller, who helped coordinate the program in Muscogee County, organized a kickoff event at the local park to get participants pumped up for the program.

“An elderly couple came in and signed up as a team together,” Miller said. “At the end of program ceremony, the woman said Walk Georgia is what it took to get her husband out of the house and moving. They are an exercising couple now, and had it not been for this program, they wouldn’t be.”

Session two coming up

The first session of Walk Georgia has ended. Registration for the next session will be August 24 through September 14. The fall program will run until November 1. To learn more, visit the Web site at www.walkgeorgia.org.

For more information on this and other Extension programs, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or visit www.ugaextension.com.

By Allie Byrd
University of Georgia

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