WEST CHESTER >> Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is remembered for remarking that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. In Chester County, the journey toward one billion steps has began with a stroll through Kennett Square.
On Tueday, county officials joined with the staff of the ounty’s Health Department to kick off the “WalkWorks Chesco” initiative, which challenges county residents of all ages to lace up their sneakers and walk one billion steps before the end of the year. It is part of an effort by health organizations in the national Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a two-year competition that seeks ways to to create a positive health impact in the community.
The event in Kennett Square, one of three that will be held in COatesville today, had county commissioners leading participants in a half-mile awalk around the Genesis HealthCare coplex. About 60 people attended the event
Chester 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.
“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.
In addition to Kennett Square and Phoenixville, on Wednesday, the kick-off events will conclude with an event at City hall in Coatesville at 1 p.m. today.
“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 commissioners’ Chairwoman 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 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.
Commissioner’s Vice Chairwoman Kathi Cozzone noted tjat again the county had been ranked the healthiest county in the state by an independent group. “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,” she said. The Walk Works program, “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,” Cozzone said.”
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 Commissioner Terence Farrell.
Estimates are that one billion steps would mean 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,” said Farrell. “Or, as we know will be the case, it’s somewhere in between!”
More information about the WalkWorks ChesCo! program, how to register, and walking and running events that will contribute to the 1 billion step total can be found at www.chesco.org/walkworks.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.