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One-mile walk introduces statewide Summer Steps community challenge

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians can get a feel for the first LiveWell Community Challenge: Summer Steps -- a county-by-county challenge in the state to motivate people to get active -- during a kickoff event in Charleston on Thursday.

The one-mile walk along Kanawha Boulevard begins at noon at Haddad Park. Everyone is invited to get out and walk, especially during their lunch break, said Cassie Waugh, communications and marketing manager for West Virginia University Extension Service.

"You can get in a mile of exercise just by walking on your lunch break," Waugh said. "It's an opportunity to find a walking partner and meet a few new people."

WVU Extension Service is hosting the walking event to promote its new website, which helps people find information about health and wellness, Waugh said.

The site -- livewellwv.org -- is a project of the WVU Extension Service and the Charleston Gazette. Both groups saw a need to distribute news and information about health and wellness opportunities throughout the state, Waugh said.

The site offers nutritional and fitness information from WVU Extension, as well as resources for parents, teachers, schools and communities, as previously reported by the Gazette. Some of the related topics will include financial health, gardening, and developing healthy relationships.

The site will offer a place for cities and counties to share what they are doing to be healthier.

On Tuesday, for example, Waugh said site visitors could watch a video of Kanawha Elementary School students being active a half hour before they start class every morning. In the video, students jump rope, hula-hoop and play hopscotch while Kanawha Elementary gym instructor Vicki Lacey and Principal Mike DeRose discuss the benefits of children moving in the morning.

The site grew out of an existing Extension website and a collaboration with the Gazette's "The Shape We're In" series on obesity and chronic disease.

"Kate Long is doing 'The Shape We're In' series, which highlights the challenges we face in West Virginia. We hope to find opportunities and show resources that address these problems and fix them," Waugh said. "The website is a portal to help people find that information easier and to have these wellness challenges to participate in, like the kickoff walks."

The LiveWell Community Challenge: Summer Steps program is the first free community wellness challenge, which will change quarterly. Future challenge ideas include volunteering for a community-based project and other aspects of health and wellness such as healthy eating and mental health, Waugh said.

The Summer Steps walking program runs from June 1 to Aug. 31.

Starting June 1, participants will track the number of miles they walk, run, bike, swim, or play a sport through WVU Extension's online tracker (http://livewellwv.ext.wvu.edu/walking-tracker).

Since it is a county-by-county challenge in the state, participants will identify which county they want their miles to count toward.

Participants can check their progress on the site, Waugh said, and mile markers motivate people to exercise more. The online tracker shows how far a person's mileage has really taken them, such as the number of miles it takes to get to Myrtle Beach, Waugh said.

The winning county will be announced in September. That county will be designated as a "Live Well West Virginia Community" and will receive a community sign and a free walkability study provided by WVU Extension Service's Community, Economic and Workforce Development program.

"Ideally, the motivation would be that you've personally set a goal and helped your community achieve something by getting out and walking," Waugh said. "I think a lot of what we're excited about is that community aspect; knowing that you're working toward something that your county will benefit from."

WVU Extension Service is also hosting a kickoff walk in Morgantown today<co Wednesday> at the rail trail at noon.

Participants in the kickoff walks will receive a LiveWellWV T-shirt and a healthy snack at the end of the walk.

For more information or to register and start tracking your mileage for your county visit www.livewellwv.org.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113


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