The 2009 Walk Kansas program officially began Sunday at the Marion Gynasium and Aquatic Center.
Twenty teams are registered in Marion County, a few less than last year, according to Nancy Pihl, who is directing the program as county extension agent for family and consumer sciences.
Over the next eight weeks, the teams, along with others from across the state, will register their physical activity, with 15 minutes of exercise equaling one mile.
The goal of the program is to complete 423 miles of exercise, the east-west distance across the state of Kansas. Team members work together to reach this goal by walking, biking or performing other aerobic activities.
“The ultimate goal is just to get people out at least 30 minutes, five days a week doing some activity,” Pihl said.
Walk Kansas also promotes healthy eating habits.
Teams are encouraged to keep track of the fruits and vegetables they eat in order to increase their consumption of these food groups.
“Experts recommend you get five to nine servings of vegetables a day, and most people are getting two or three,” Pihl said.
This year, whole grains are being added to the list, with teams encouraged to eat at least three servings per day.
Pihl said an increase in general fitness is the main benefit of Walk Kansas, listing weight loss, blood pressure regulation and prevention of heart disease as benefits of increasing fitness.
Walk Kansas, offered by Kansas State University Research and Extension, is in its eighth year in Marion County.
This year, some team members are from out of the county, Pihl said, including those from Canton, Emporia, Hays, Hesston and Hope. These members either work in the county or have a connection through family or friends.
For more information, call the Marion County Extension Office at 620-382-2325 or visit www.walkkansas.org.