Dakota County walking program pushes fitness
Walking regularly has all sorts of benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can help people maintain a healthy weight, prevent or manage health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones and lift your mood.
To encourage walking and its benefits, Dakota County Public Health annually sponsors a four-month walking program called Simple Steps.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of people who walk regularly, said Jill Verchota, Dakota County Health Promotion Specialist.
“It’s great for the body and the mind and it’s simple to do,” said Verchota.
The free program started April 1, no joke, and Verchota encouraged people who live and work in Dakota County to sign up and participate. Registration ends June 15. The program ends July 8.Participation is free and easy. Participants register on the county’s website and then regularly log walking time onto the site.Participants can walk any time that it works for them. Verchota said some will walk during their lunch breaks at work, while others will incorporate an evening stroll into their lifestyle. Lastly, she suggested people walk instead of drive when possible.To help make it fun, Verchota also suggested participants try to get someone to walk with them. Participants can register as a group.The program is in its eighth year. Participation has ebbed and flowed over the years. Their highest participation number was in 2010 with 1,171 people registered. Last year, 839 people committed to walking through the program.Registration numbers have been good so far for 2014, Verchota said, and she anticipates the number of participants will be higher than last.Verchota said the program has had a lot of success and earned a number of awards including 2008 National Association of Counties Achievement Award, 2008 Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association and the 2009 HEROES Award.Perks and toolsBesides the pragmatic benefits of walking, those who regularly log their walking time will be eligible for prizes throughout the four-month program.To help people get started the website offers a variety of tools to help participants stick with a walking plan. Additionally, the website has maps of the walking paths and trails in Dakota County.To register for the Simple Steps program visit the Dakota County website at www.co.dakota.mn.us and search for Simple Steps.