During National Public Health Week (April 3-9, 2017), the Chester County Commissioners and Health Department officials are introducing WalkWorks ChesCo!, an initiative challenging county residents of all ages to lace up their sneakers and walk one billion steps before the end of the year.
WalkWorks ChesCo! promotes, educates and empowers county residents to adopt a healthier lifestyle one step at a time by creating more places for walking, supporting and promoting walking groups, coordinating walking challenges and – importantly – creating a website that allows everyone to track and tally their steps towards the one billion goal.
The boroughs of Kennett Square and Phoenixville along with the City of Coatesville hosted kick-off events this week. Specially-designed walking routes within each of these urban centers, created by the Chester County Planning Commission, highlight historic and other points of interest along the route.
“Although we’re asking every county resident to join the WalkWorks movement, we chose to launch the program in these three areas to highlight that walks in town center settings can be just as interesting – and healthy – as walks on county trails and in county parks,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “The idea of WalkWorks ChesCo! is to provide more opportunities and encouragement for physical activity; physical activity that is easy, that only requires a good pair of walking shoes and that can begin the minute we walk out our front door.”
One of the key components of the WalkWorks ChesCo! program is a specially designed website that will tally all steps taken by residents who register to participate. The website, found at www.chesco.org/walkworks, takes individual registrations and syncs with most devices and mobile apps that already track steps. It also allows users to convert other physical exercise into steps to be manually added.
County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone noted: “Chester County has once again been acknowledged as the healthiest county in Pennsylvania, but even with that distinction, one in four Chester County adults is considered obese and one in four children is classified as either overweight or obese. WalkWorks ChesCo! uses the most simple and inexpensive method of exercise – walking – to encourage regular physical activity in communities throughout the county. We’re also encouraging schools, businesses, faith-based groups and community organizations to establish teams that can enter into friendly competition, to increase the steps taken by everyone.”
One such competition is the “Ville to Ville Challenge” with walking groups in Coatesville and Phoenixville calling upon their local communities to walk the most steps in a six week period.
“The beauty of WalkWorks ChesCo! is that it encourages partnerships between the local YMCAs and Activate organizations as well as chambers of commerce, physicians, schools, scout troops and many other community and civic organizations, all of which are supportive of the effort to increase physical activity,” said County Commissioner Terence Farrell. “If you break down one billion steps, it’s getting 1,000 people to walk 10,000 steps for 100 days; or it’s getting every young person in middle school and high school to take just over 23,000 steps; or it’s asking every county resident over the age of five to take 2,100 steps or walk for 21 minutes. Or, as we know will be the case, it’s somewhere in between!”
The WalkWorks ChesCo! program is Chester County’s response to the national Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a two-year competition that empowers U.S. cities and counties to create a positive health impact. The county was selected out of 400 applications as one of 50 members of the national HealthyCommunity50, and received $10,000 in community seed funds to establish WalkWorks ChesCo! The Challenge, a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, will award $1.5 million overall in prizes to small and mid-sized cities, counties and federally-recognized tribes that are able to show measurable health improvements over several years, based on each proposed program.
More information about the WalkWorks ChesCo! program, how to register, and walking and running events that will contribute to the one billion step total can be found at www.chesco.org/walkworks.