Encouraging West Virginias to be healthy by being active

“Have fun. Be active. Get together.”

This is the motto for West Virginia University Extension Service’s Summer Steps, a program that motivates West Virginians to be more active in the communities where they work, live, and play. This is a prescription for health and success for our state. While exercise alone will not consistently cause individuals to lose weight, it can facilitate independence, longevity, and cardiac health. In addition, the combination of reducing carbohydrates (sugar) in our diets and exercise (12,000 steps per day) can improve weight and perhaps improve longevity.

I have written previously about my “why” – to tangibly improve the health of West Virginia’s citizens. And Summer Steps is an initiative that can have a direct, positive impact on that effort.

While the program focuses on walking because that is something most people can do, participants can be active in their own way. Count every 20-minute period of exercise as one “mile.” All activity counts – biking, swimming, running, playing, or anything that constitutes moving.

Research shows that people who live long and well focus on five areas, and exercise is one of them. The others are food, connections, resilience, and sleep. (For more on that, read “The Law of the Few Applied to Health.”)

The fourth annual Summer Steps started June 1 and will continue through August 31. To participate, go to http://fh.ext.wvu.edu/summer-steps. Click on “online tracker,” and the site will prompt you to create an account. Once you’re an official Summer Stepper, all you have to do is log your activity.

One of the beautiful things I’ve always loved about West Virginia is the sense of community. Summer Steps presents an opportunity to reconnect with others who would like to be more active or to create new friendships. It’s helpful to exercise with others who are committed to good health.

Working together could also help your county become a winner. The county with the most “mileage” will receive a community sign and designation as a “Live Well West Virginia Community.” The WVU Extension Service is also conducting a free walkability study.

Are you ready to start moving? I hope so! Because I’d like to invite the WVU Health Sciences Center and WVU Healthcare communities to join me at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, for some walking around Milan Puskar Stadium. Meet me at the North Gate – that’s the one that faces the front of Ruby Memorial Hospital.

And make sure you sign up for Summer Steps before Tuesday, so you can count your early morning steps with me toward your activity.

This way, we can represent the change we wish to see in the world and in West Virginia.