Creating Steps to a Healthier You through WalkWorks

Walking—we do it every day. When we want to get somewhere, we walk. Sure, we may incorporate other modes of transportation into our lives, such as driving a car, riding a bike or using public transit, but we start and end every trip by walking.

We also choose our walking speed. When we have to get somewhere quickly, we speed walk. When we take the dog out or want to experience the outdoors, our pace slows. Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of physical activity – it’s free and requires no special equipment or athletic skill.

Yet, in 2017, one quarter of Pennsylvania adults indicated participating in no physical activity in the past month, while more than two thirds of adults were overweight or obese. Walking is an important part of our lives and can improve our overall health. Health benefits of walking include helping to control weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and enhancing mental well-being.

Why don’t we walk more?

In many locations across Pennsylvania, lack of access to areas where residents can safely walk or bicycle is cited as one of the reasons for poor physical health. Communities and their streets were rarely designed to enable simultaneous, safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. However, streets designed for all modes of transportation, called Complete Streets, make it easier to cross the street, get to school, walk to shops, or bicycle to work and, therefore, are associated with increased physical activity. Complete Streets not only promotes good health and creates health equity, but it can also stimulate the local economy, improve road safety, reduce the amount of air pollution and improve mobility for children and older individuals.

WalkWorks – What is it?

To encourage walking and help more Pennsylvanians meet the national guidelines which call for adults to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed WalkWorks. WalkWorks seeks to encourage communities to support physical activity by promoting active transportation through the implementation of community-based walking routes and the development of plans or policies related to active transportation. Here are two upcoming opportunities to partner with WalkWorks:

WalkWorks affiliate program

Local community-based organizations interested in improving the health status of their communities can apply to become a WalkWorks affiliate. Joining the 89 walking routes in 21 counties across Pennsylvania, selected community-based partners:

• Identify a walking route and points of interests;

• Engage community stakeholders;

• Collaborate with community organizations; and

• Organize a kick-off celebration.

While a specific date to release the affiliate application has not yet been determined, it is expected to be released in August or September. To see if the application has been released, please visit the WalkWorks website.

Marcus Hook walking route, Delaware County

WalkWorks funding for active transportation plans or policies

Municipalities and similar types of local government organizations interested in enhancing active transportation through plans or policies can apply for WalkWorks funding to develop plans or policies that begin to prioritize active transportation. This funding opportunity, which will open on or around August 1, creates or enhances pedestrian and bicycle connections to common community destinations that allow people to recreate, shop, explore or socialize safely and conveniently. To view the application or apply, please visit the WalkWorks website after August 1.

Whether you are a community resident looking for opportunities to increase your physical activity or a local government official looking to improve the walkability and connectivity of your community, WalkWorks has resources, guides and funding opportunities that can help improve the overall health of your community.

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Adding Some Spice to a Stale Relationship

Young couple having relationship problemsPlus 6 tips for better abs, and 7 great ideas for holiday gifts!

We are so conditioned to look for a time saving fix or an easy upgrade to fix anything in our lives that is feeling tired or old or used or outdated – and yet we content ourselves with our current facilities because any change seems too hard, too expensive, or too out of reach.

But have no fear – there may be hope.  in 2009 and 2011 our agency completely renovated two swimming pools – and I mean completely.  We tore out everything down to the hole in the ground – pools, bath houses, utilities…everything.  And we rebuilt.  And the new facilities were a smashing success.  Revenues and attendance more than doubled, and the pools became operationally self-sustaining.  Yay! We met our goals!

But that was, like, so 8 years ago.  The honeymoon is over.  Our community, which used to be super excited at the new pools, is now conditioned to expect that level of entertainment.  So what’s next?  Well, as much as we’d love to spend another $1 million on a flowrider surf machine, that’s just waaaaay outside of the budget picture.aquatics_slide_show_2_0

So how can we add some spice to this stale relationship that the public is having with our facility?  Lucky for me we live in PA and have this thing called ‘Winter’ that lets me do some research and admin work to find solutions.

1. Toys.  Toys are fun.  They cost money – but they can be an easy way to immediately change the recreation atmosphere at a facility.  For the pools, we added a climbing wall and a floating obstacle course (ours is a Wibit, but there are others out there).  We’re also looking at giant hamster balls, log rolling, zip lines, noodle jousting on inflatable ducks – and lots of other ideas.  We had instant success with purchasing these items for public use.  Indoor facilities have many similar features available – just do some research.

2.  Programs.  We regularly try new programs at the pools.  Three years ago we worked with our high school diving coach to add springboard diving lessons to go along with our already robust swim lesson program.  Last year we borrowed the Start Smart program concept and ran swim lessons where our instructor-led parents through a course teaching their own kids to swim.

3.  Events.  Disco night?  Maybe a little outdated, but what about a dance night with a DJ or live band?  Cardboard boat races?  Dog swim?  Fishing Derby after the season?  Pool-o-Ween?  There are lots of ideas already out there – or you can combine some and make your own!

Those are just a few ideas, but really here are the key points:

  •  Make the time to regularly evaluate your facilities and operations.  Get rid of stale programs or events.  Create new ones to replace them.
  • Budget for some new items, even if you have to spread the purchases over a few years.  They can make an immediate impact.
  • Do some research.  Thanks to the internet there are tons of ideas out there already.  You often don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just borrow ideas from other successful facilities!  You can also get a lot of great ideas from conferences and expos.

As for the 6 tips for better abs:

1. Eat Less

2. Eat Better

3. Exercise more

4. Repeat

And the 7 holiday gift ideas?

1. Ask them what they want.  7 times.