By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Every Pennsylvanian is encouraged to walk across the state through a virtual wellness program over the next couple of months.
Penn State Extension is once again hosting “Everybody Walk Across PA” to encourage residents to exercise. The virtual program started as a local campaign in Wyoming County then in 2014 it was expanded statewide. About 1,500 people participated last year and there are currently 1,100 people signed up this year.
“This was a fun way to get people energized and excited about healthy behaviors,” said Penn State Extension educator Karen Bracey.
Bracey said one of the missions of Penn State Extension is to promote health and wellness which the virtual activity does. She said everyone knows that exercises like walking are healthy for the body.
“Moderate activity such as walking reduces stress and fatigue and increase mental alertness. It improves cardiovascular functioning and strengthens bones. Combined with healthy eating, it can help to reduce or maintain body weight and decrease incidence of certain chronic disease,” stated a press release about the virtual program.
The issue is actually getting people to do these healthy activities, Bracey said. That’s where “Everybody Walk Across PA” comes into play. Participants are asked to create teams of up to five people for the journey which will explore the Rails to Trails network in Pennsylvania. Several trails throughout the state were developed from vacant railroads. Participants will receive weekly emails about eight different Rails to Trails destinations and healthy eating tips. Although people are encouraged to explore the trails mentioned in the emails, it’s not required to walk at these destinations.
The virtual activity lasts for eight weeks and begins Monday which is also the registration deadline. It’s completely free to participate but people must register first. Every person is encouraged to walk 10 miles a week either on their own or with the rest of their team members. Individuals are able to participate without a team as well. Also walking isn’t the only way to gain miles and there’s a conversion chart for other physical activities. For example, gardening for 30 minutes is worth one mile.
Bracey said the virtual wellness event isn’t meant to be competitive but help people begin a habit of walking or doing other physical activities. There’s no minimum miles requirement to participate and people can exercise as much as they are physically able to.
“It’s really for yourself,” Bracey said adding that 10 miles a week breaks down into less than two miles a day.
Participants will have a chance to win a book filled with recipes and healthy living advice through weekly random drawings.
The virtual “Everybody Walk Across PA” ends May 29. For more information or to register online, visit extension.psu.edu/health/walk-across-pa. Bracey can be contacted at the email firstname.lastname@example.org or the phone number 570-836-3196.