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More than 291,000 Iowans Walk to Support 'Healthiest State' Initiative

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This group headed out on their walk from the Historic Cherokee Depot. [Order this photo]
WEST DES MOINES, -- On Friday October 7, more than 291,000 Iowans voted with their feet in favor of the new 'Healthiest State Initiative' by participating in 'Start Somewhere Walks' held across the state, according to estimates by walk organizers.

"In more than 2,300 group walks and thousands of individual walks, Iowans said 'yes' to starting our journey to becoming the healthiest state in the nation," said Governor Terry Branstad, who announced the Healthiest State Initiative in August. "It was a remarkable display of energy as Iowans came together to 'start somewhere' in reaching this ambitious goal."

Start Somewhere Walks were held in each of Iowa's 99 counties, including one led by Governor Branstad around the State Capitol complex.

Bold Walk Goal Exceeded

Walk organizers had set a goal of 250,000 Start Somewhere Walk participants to best a walk world record currently claimed by Canada, which had 231,635 walk participants in 2007. Iowans beat that total even though it has less than one-tenth of the population of Canada.

"We knew it was a bold goal to set a target of a quarter-million Iowans participating in Start Somewhere Walks," said Doug Reichardt, co-chair of the Healthiest State Initiative advisory committee. "Of course, it's also a bold goal to become number one in well-being, so we had to -- and will have to -- think big for the Healthiest State Initiative."

Maintaining the Momentum

As the name suggests, the Start Somewhere Walks are just the beginning, according to Reichardt. He said Iowans will see many new programs and opportunities for getting involved in the Healthiest State Initiative in the coming years.

All ages took place in the 'Start Somewhere' walk in Cherokee. [Order this photo]
One of those is the Blue Zones Project™, which will bring national experts to 10 Iowa communities over the next five years. These experts will work alongside local leaders to implement a blueprint to change their communities so that their residents may live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Iowans can support their community's effort to be one of the Blue Zones towns at www.bluezonesproject.com.

Other programs include a traveling wellness tour, a healthy entrée promotion that will sweep across Iowa restaurants, and even new twists at the Iowa State Fair in 2012.

In the meantime, Reichardt encouraged Iowans to get started themselves. "If you haven't already done so, pledge your support of the Healthiest State Initiative at www.iowahealthieststate.com, and go to www.bluezonesproject.com to complete a Blue Zones Personal Pledge to define specific steps you can take to improve your personal health."

Reichardt, an avid cyclist, also said Iowans should consider forming walk groups or cycling groups. "Talk to friends, neighbors or co-workers. Agree on when, where and your pace," he said. "I know you will enjoy the camaraderie and shared health benefits."

All four groups of walkers in Cherokee finished in the parking lot at the Fareway store. [Order this photo]
The Healthiest State Initiative is a privately led, public effort that will engage Iowans and their communities throughout the state. It will involve individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and the public sector in a broad-based community-focused effort. For more information, visit www.iowahealthieststate.com.

In Cherokee, groups gathered at four different locations around town. The walk began for many at Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Hy-Vee Drugstore, Cherokee Regional Medical Center, Bacon Aquatic Center and the Cherokee Depot.

The groups quickly made their way to their destination at the Fareway parking lot. Once at Fareway participants received an apple, bottle of water and additional information on how to live a healthier lifestyle.

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