Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Walk Georgia celebrates one-year anniversary

More than 3,800 Georgians spent eight weeks this fall “walking” across the state, losing weight, toning up and getting healthier along the way. They all participated in University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Walk Georgia fitness program.

The program debuted in spring 2008. It is designed to increase physical activity and get Georgians moving.

Participants can form teams and challenge each other to get fit, or sign up as individuals. They track their progress online and virtually chart a course across the state from the Georgia mountains to the Marshes of Glynn.

“I loved inputting my activity, especially when I would get enough miles so that I could pick new counties,” said Lisa Plank, a participant from Winterville. “I really liked going from county to county, not only for the fun facts, but also because I could see, albeit in a smaller scale, just how much I did exercise.”

Plank lost weight and gained muscle and discovered what she eats is as important to her fitness and wellness as how much she exercises.

“I became more confident in my body and in my ability and stamina,” said Plank, who recently completed her first 5K race and placed third in her age category. “It’s been a long time since I've been proud of myself for a physical accomplishment.”

In addition to walking, activities like aerobics, biking, jogging and weightlifting can be logged. Time spent exercising is converted into miles, which participants use to move across an online map. Overall, participants this fall logged 353,810 miles in the program.

The most popular exercises logged this session were walking, stretching, weight lifting, cycling, aerobics, using an exercise machine, step aerobics and elliptical training.

Through Walk Georgia, Ben Free of Fayetteville advanced his own exercise regiment and began teaching aerobics. The retired school teacher did all of this from his wheel chair.

“After I joined Walk Georgia I went to the exercise room two to three times a week. I started Tai Chi, began enjoying exercising and saw my goals reached,” he said.

He now teaches a chair aerobics class at the Fayette County Senior Center. Free said he and his students “do everything that a person can do standing, but we do it in a chair.”

Of the adult participants, 91 percent were still recording physical activity the last week of the program. And 98.5 percent said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the program. Ninety-three percent agreed that the program encouraged them to exercise.

Registration for the next session will begin Feb. 14 and run through March 5. The spring session will begin March 1 and end April 25. For more information, contact your UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1, or go to the Web site www.walkgeorgia.org.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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