Getting into exercise isn’t always easy with today’s hectic lifestyles, but Walk Kansas from K-State Research and Extension could provide a solution.

Walk Kansas, which runs from March 18 to May 12 this year, is not a competition —  there are no winners or losers. The goal is for all participants to be successful in adding or increasing exercise with a team format. Teams consist of six members, with one serving as captain. Teams can select one of three fitness challenges to accumulate 150 minutes of exercise per week or more.

This year for the first time, participants will learn about the 8 Wonders of Kansas for the basic challenge as they log the minutes they’ve walked each week.

The 8 Wonders include such places as the Kansas Cosmosphere, Monument Rocks and Castle Rock, and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills. These places were identified through a contest series organized by the Kansas Sampler Foundation to inspire awareness of the beauty and value in Kansas, and to encourage travel.

Walk Kansas participants don’t actually walk to those places, but as they log the exercise minutes they’ve walked in their own neighborhoods, they learn about those iconic sites around Kansas.

“The program is for all fitness levels,” said Sharolyn Jackson, Walk Kansas program coordinator. “Whether you never walk around the block or your idea of a great afternoon is a 3-mile hike, this program helps you work toward or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Plus, it can connect you with friends, colleagues at work or family members as you log miles together as part of a six-person team.”

Walk Kansas is supported by many K-State Research and Extension offices around the state. The cost for participants is $8, with an optional Walk Kansas shirt available at an extra charge. Teams are encouraged to get registered by March 15.

Since the launch of Walk Kansas in 2001, thousands of Kansans have walked millions of miles at almost no cost, but the benefits are huge, Jackson said, adding that study after study has shown walking and other forms of moderate exercise can cut rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease by at least 40 percent. After eight weeks, many participants say they sleep better and have more energy, endurance, muscle strength and flexibility.

And it’s not just about walking. Through the eight weeks, participants can enjoy local events and receive a weekly e-newsletter with tips on healthy eating, stretching, strength training, mental and physical well-being and recipes. Walk Kansas also counts minutes of other activities such as swimming, bicycling and dancing, for those who prefer other activities to walking. The idea is just to get moving and work together to keep moving.

State of Kansas employees can earn four Health Quest credits for participating in the program. Information on how to claim the credits will be available at the end of the program.

More information is available at www.walkkansas.org or by contacting the offices of the Cottonwood Extension district in Hays at (785) 628-9430 or Great Bend at (620) 793-1910. 

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.