Healthiest State Initiative

Close to 600 staff and students from Wilson Elementary School in Davenport walked to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds at noon Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, to help kick off the Healthiest State Initiative by walking 1 kilometer.

Kevin E. Schmidt

On Wednesday, almost 1,000 students from North Scott High School in Eldridge will exit their classrooms and walk for 25 minutes on an all-weather track next to their school.

The same day, employees of a Davenport Hy-Vee store will head to Truman Elementary School in Davenport and pair up with children to walk around the school.

Both events are among more than two dozen in the Quad-Cities, all for the Iowa Healthiest State Walk set for Wednesday.

At North Scott, the district’s wellness committee is encouraging all schools to take part in a fitness activity on Oct. 3, said Frank Wood, associate high school principal. The high school staff decided all the students in school — just under 1,000 teens — will head to the track that surrounds the Lancers’ football field in Eldridge. The 25-minute limit should allow most to finish at least 1 mile, Wood said, but some will go a longer distance.

Andy Streit, store director at the Hy-Vee on Davenport’s West Kimberly Road, volunteered to participate with children at Truman school, located at 5506 N. Pine St., just south of the store. Part of Streit’s incentive comes from the Iowa Healthiest State initiative, launched in 2011.

“Last year we got involved in the Start Somewhere Walk, and that was a good catalyst,” he said. This year, Streit decided to walk with younger kids. He thinks exercising with young people will help promote a fitness message to be passed along to parents and other family members.

There’s still time to sign up online at the Healthiest State Initiative website — — and the event is open to both individuals and teams.

Walking is accessible

Walking is a foundational physical activity that is accessible to most Iowans, according to Dennis Haney, community life consultant with the Iowans Fit for Life initiative at the Iowa Department of Health, Des Moines.

“Typically, if we are moving a person from an inactive to active lifestyle, walking is a good entry-level activity that almost all of us can do,” Haney added.

In the good news department, Scott County has some of the highest activity levels in the state, Haney said. “That’s a big positive,” he noted, pointing out that Davenport, too, is a strong supporter of the state’s desire to promote good sidewalks and streets for physical fitness activities.

For example, a city sidewalk was recently installed near Buchanan Elementary School, 4515 N. Fairmont St., Davenport. It has prompted school officials to launch a “walking school bus” program in which sreened adult volunteers monitor the route and make sure it’s a safe environment for children to walk to and from school.

More walkers in U.S., too

Six in 10 adults in the United States now report they are physically active by walking, according to an August study from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Atlanta. That data originated from one week in 2010, and was compared with a 2005 study, which reported that five of 10 adults was at that activity level.

“More than 145 million adults are now getting some of their physical activity by walking,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said.

“People who are physically active live longer and are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers. Having more places for people to walk in our communities will help us continue to see increases in walking, the most popular form of physical activity among American adults,” said Frieden, CDC director.

Event to re-energize Iowans

Events like next week’s Healthiest State Walk serve to re-energize and re-commit people to a fitness routine, according to Helen Eddy, executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative, Des Moines.

“Iowans are ready to start making changes in their lifestyles,” she said. Those who are most successful with fitness often start with small steps. “Once you make a small adjustment to your habits, it is easier to make the second or third change,” she said.

Eddy suggests that those who walk 1-kilometer in the Healthiest State Walk also do one other healthy activity, such as eating supper with the family, or volunteering at a community event.

Organizers of the Healthiest State Initiative will enlarge the conversation next year. “We have some more work to do,” Eddy said, adding that there will be more encouragement to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, programs to help Iowans stop smoking, and also link the subject of oral health to a person’s overall health.