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Public Health Department urges more walking this summer

Walking connects communities, helps prevent obesity, writers say.
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From Gwenda Bond, Beth Fisher

FRANKFORT, KY (18 Jun, 2015) - The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) encourages Kentuckians to stay active this summer, better connect with friends and neighbors and improve health and fitness levels by adopting a regular walking schedule.

"With the warmer temperatures, summer is the perfect time to renew your commitment to get outdoors and take a walk," said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, DPH commissioner. "We all know walking is healthy, but it's also fun, relaxing, and a great way to connect with others. You can invite a friend or loved one out for a nightly walk after dinner, take care of weekend errands on foot, or invite neighbors or co-workers to start a regular walking group. The more you walk, the more you'll connect and be part of building a stronger, healthier community."

Increased walking and other forms of physical activity are important pieces of the objectives identified in Governor Steve Beshear's kyhealthnow initiative, a statewide effort to improve the health of Kentuckians. kyhealthnow sets multiple long-term goals to be achieved by 2019, including reducing the prevalence of obesity by 10 percent. Presently, the Commonwealth ranks 42nd in obesity and 46th in physical inactivity. Meanwhile, 31.3 percent of adults in Kentucky are obese.

"Obesity is linked to multiple chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke - and is one of the major chronic conditions affecting the health of Kentuckians," said Elaine Russell, obesity prevention program coordinator.

"Regular walking could greatly reduce our state's obesity burden. That's why we have been involved in numerous projects specifically designed to help communities increase access to exercise and fitness opportunities."

In recent months, DPH and its partners have been working on initiatives that address community policy and programs that increase access to physical activity. The DPH Obesity Prevention Program and the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky have created a guide for obesity prevention and health policy for Kentucky communities, which can be viewed at PA-Vision-Slidedoc.pdf

DPH also has been selected to receive support from America Walks Kentucky is one of four states that will receive technical assistance from America Walks to help enhance the health and transportation collaboration around walking and walkable community design, such as complete streets, lower traffic speeds, livable communities and economic benefits.

America Walks will facilitate a workshop later this summer with key leadership from the DPH, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism and other stakeholders. The workshop will focus on strategies the agencies can work on jointly to advance suitable policies and practices that promote walking and walkability.

"We're also working directly with communities and funding projects through a public health grant program to help cities and towns across Kentucky develop pedestrian plans," said Russell.

Russell said the grants are a part of the DPH Healthy Communities Program, which selected 11 communities to receive funding to begin working on a pedestrian plan. Grantees and partners recently attended a training led by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and DPH to learn how to plan for more walkable communities. In addition to the initial funding, technical assistance will be provided to grantees as they work toward developing a pedestrian plan for their communities.

"We're very excited about recent developments in obesity prevention and increasing physical activity in the Commonwealth," said Russell. "We hope everyone will not only become more physically active, but take some time to learn more about our vision and support our communities in their work to become more active, healthier places to live, work and play."

Public health officials also emphasize the importance of safety measures while engaging in walking and other outdoor activities this summer. Here are some basic guidelines to avoid illness and injury;
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

  • Take frequent water breaks.

  • Wear appropriate clothing that won't cause you to overheat
"Everyone can benefit from being active and enjoy better lifelong health - but we have to be mindful of safety and prevention at all times as well," said Mayfield. and for resources for getting outside and doing physical activities, please visit

This story was posted on 2015-06-21 03:46:55
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