Author: Cole Pearson Health & Wellness RN and Program Manager, RiseVT – Lamoille County

It’s one of the first major achievements in most of our lives, “The baby took her first steps!” It’s also used to portray hard work, “In my day, I walked 12 miles to school up hill in the snow.” Walking is often taken for granted but it is one of the most accessible forms of exercise and can have numerous health benefits. So how do we spread the message and get more people interested in this fun and healthy activity? Setting an accessible and attainable goal such as a charity 5K walk might just be the answer.

Copley Hospital in Morrisville’s annual “Run for the Heart” is an annual 5K citizen’s race with proceeds benefit Copley Hospital’s heart programs, including: cardiology, cardiac-rehabilitation, and healthy-living programs through the Wellness Center. RiseVT- Lamoille Valley thought that this fun event might be an excellent opportunity for first-time 5K walkers to discover the joys and health benefits of walking. To encourage participation, RiseVT offered to pay the $25 entry fee for up to 20 first-time participants.

The health benefits of walking are well documented but as noted in the article published in the July 2008 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, “Walking is a universal form of physical activity that is appropriate to promote regardless of sex, ethnic group, age, education, or income level. Walking does not require expensive equipment, special skill, or special facilities” (Lee & Buchner, 2008). Accessibility is very important to RiseVT’s goal of making the healthy choice, the easy choice. And for most of us, walking is very accessible. Preventing chronic disease is also very important to RiseVT’s goal of helping communities to play more, eat well, feel good, and have fun. Walking has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes, dementia, and even falls (Lee & Buchner, 2008).

Last Saturday, the day of the race, RiseVT was able to help 12 first-time participants complete the 5k. One such participant, Joan Petrolito, who is also an employee at Copley Hospital, was very thankful for the opportunity. Joan also participated in a 6-week walking program that culminated in the “Run for the Heart”. She stated: “I had back surgery in Dec. of 2017. The lead up to that as well as the procedure itself left me pretty weak. Your walking program inspired me to get out for a brisk walk every day I could, paying attention to posture, etc. with your helpful guidance. My strength and stamina have been greatly improved over these last several weeks.”

Hopefully, Joan and the other participants have experienced a new-found enjoyment of this everyday activity: walking. RiseVT will continue to promote similar healthy and accessible activities throughout the great state of Vermont. Time for a walk!

References: Lee, I., & Buchner, D. M. (2008). The Importance of Walking to Public Health. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(7), 512-518. Retrieved October 5, 2018.