A Step in the Right Direction

A Step in the Right Direction

A new program hopes to peel residents off their La-Z-Boys and put them on the road to health

published in Fort Wayne Magazine

In the years I’ve been working out, I’ve heard many reasons why people don’t, most excuses as lame as a running back with a torn ACL: “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t have the money.” “I don’t like to sweat.” “My cats need me at home at night.” “Who needs to exercise – look at these quads!”

Considering the demands of my schedule, I could challenge anyone to top me in the excuses department. But I’ve found that improving my fitness level is as simple as that little ditty from the Rudolph Christmas TV special: “You put one foot in front of the other …”

It hardly gets more basic than walking. Almost anyone can do it anywhere at any time. But few people do it enough to make a difference. That’s where Fort Wayne Walks One Million Miles steps in.

Fort Wayne Walks is the brainchild of the Fort Wayne Sports Corp., headed by executive director Andrew Bengs. In 2003, the wellness committee of the Sports Corp. board was looking for a way to respond to national press saying residents are out-of-shape.

“As a city, we’ve earned a reputation for obesity,” Bengs says. “Fort Wayne has had a problem, but we are actively trying to improve ourselves.”

While walking is readily accessible, it lacks the glamour of yogilates. The committee decided walking one million miles might grab a little attention. They devised a formula that showed if 6,700 people walked 10,000 steps per day for just 30 days, they cumulatively would hit the million mark. The committee decided to stretch the program to 12 weeks, Bengs says, to make it stick. “You probably aren’t going to learn a habit in 30 days,” he says.

The CDC recommends people take 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day for good health, but most of us fall far short: 5,210 on average for women, and 7,192 for men. Sitting all day at work, walking into the grocery from the nearest parking spot and ambling to the sofa to watch TV won’t cut it, Bengs says. “They really need to go out of their way to do something to be active.”

He hopes the structure of a program will encourage residents to go out of their way. “Your likelihood of success is really increased if you do it in a group,” he says. The program will also offer participants motivation in the form of a weekly online newsletter with advice from dieticians and trainers, as well as an opportunity to log steps online weekly and see how they as individuals or the group as a whole is progressing.

The Fort Wayne Sports Corp. rolled out Fort Wayne Walks with a pilot program last spring. This month, they will begin recruiting in earnest for the real deal, which they’ll launch April 17 and wrap up the weekend of July 8-9, possibly in connection with the Three Rivers Festival parade. They hope to enroll more than 5,000 residents through churches, neighborhood associations and workplace initiatives. Individuals also can learn more at their Web site, fwsportscorp.org.

Walking is a great first step for those who are ready to give up their excuses and an excellent cardio and metabolic boost for those of us already engaged in a fitness routine. I keep my socks and tennis shoes in my car, ready for any opportunity: a spare 20 minutes at lunch, 10 minutes waiting for my daughter’s soccer practice to end. Try working a little more into your own day. Park farther from the store. Walk the dog (or cat). Stroll with your spouse or kids. Deliver messages in person at work instead of using e-mail or the phone. Hide the TV remote. Go dancing! Tracking your action quickly becomes a fun personal challenge, and every step counts.

What’s Your Number?

Tracking your progress requires a good pedometer. Fort Wayne Cardiology sells reliable pedometers with a strap and a walking program outline for just $15. The office at 1819 Carew St. is open 6 a.m.-5 p.m. The office in Suite 100 of Medical Office Building 2 next to Lutheran Hospital is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Marsha Worthington, a nurse and health educator at Fort Wayne Cardiology, has initiated another walking fitness program, Fort Wayne On the Move, in conjunction with America On the Move. The program offers national resources, yet is partnering locally with the Fort Wayne Sports Corp., the YMCA, the city and others. The Sept. 28 Day of Action will be followed by continued educational opportunities. See americaonthemove.org and click on the My Communities link.