OTTUMWA — Being part of a quarter of a million people walking on the same day sounded like fun to some healthy lifestyle advocates in Ottumwa.
Mary Orman, chair of the physical education department at Ottumwa High School, said that getting out and walking with friends could lead to a life of fitness.
Iowa's Healthiest State Walk, part of an initiative by the state to see healthier residents and lower health care costs, had 300,000 participants walk one kilometer (about two-thirds of a mile) on the day of the walk last year. The goal, according to their website, was to get the same number of Iowans to walk the same distance on Wednesday.
All morning, students from Ottumwa High School left the gym and had physical education class on the move.
"Hopefully, this will be a beginning," said Orman. "I think the intention of [having] the walk is good, to gain publicity for a healthy lifestyle."
At another education institution, the lead supporter of fitness said the walk sounded like fun even though they are already doing some "get healthy" activities.
"We participate in the iCount program, and we're encouraged to try and reach a heart-healthy level of 10,000 steps a day," said Wanda Lathrop, recreation supervisor at the Ottumwa Job Corps Center.
So it didn't surprise her too much when, just after 1 p.m. Wednesday, a colorfully dressed crowd, from material handlers in safety orange to nursing students in health care blue, started their walk from the Ottumwa Job Corps Center.
"We promote a healthy lifestyle, food and exercise-wise, among trainees and staff," said Lathrop when asked why the center recommended the group event. "We wanted to support that."
Participating in the walk was voluntary. Students could have just "hung out" on campus. Most chose to get out and walk.
"We had 164 participants," Lathrop said. "Exercise stimulates your endorphins, all your 'feel good' stuff."
Orman agreed, saying that once young people see the benefits of healthy living, it can become a habit.
"I'm pleased with the response," she said, adding that one pleasant surprise has been the response from OHS teachers. "Over half of them are doing something, some sort of exercise, every day."
Lathrop said she first heard about the walk while with a group of trainees at the Iowa State Fair. There was a booth promoting the walk, and that's the kind of fun that fits in with the lifestyle she wants to see young people practicing.
"When we were finished, some of the trainees already said we should do this every week," she said.
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark