Almost 300,000 Iowans turned out Wednesday to participate in the Healthiest State Initiative, officials announced today.

The 2012 event totaled 297,000 participants, up from last year’s count by about 6,000.

“Once again, Iowans turned out in extraordinary numbers to support our effort to become the healthiest state in the nation,” said Ric Jurgens, who chairs the Healthiest State board. He added that the event sends a message about the commitment to become the healthiest state in the nation, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Iowa moved from 19th to 16th place in those rankings last year.

In October 2011, Iowans took part in what was called the Start Somewhere Walk. Officials initially went after a Guinness World Record for most people walking at one time. That effort attracted 291,000 Iowans. But state officials said it did not become a world record because not all of the walking events going on around the state could be independently verified, as the Guinness organization requires.

In the Quad-Cities, walkers emerged Wednesday, and entire buildings were emptied of people taking advantage of the pleasant weather. They walked for at least 1 kilometer, or 12 city blocks, each.

Jurgens said that in the coming year, the Healthiest State Initiative will focus on key areas to help improve the state’s well-being. That is, improving consumption of fruits and vegetables as well as programs that promote smoking cessation and workplace-based wellness.

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