2009 Walk Kansas program will kick off March 8

For many in Kansas, participating in Walk Kansas?a Kan?sas State University Research and Extension health challenge ?signals spring, said Walk Kansas coordinator Sharolyn Jackson.

The 2009 program will begin March 8 and continue to May 2.

Last year, Walk Kansas involved 24 teams across Marion County; participants combined to log more than 11,000 miles.

Over the eight-year history of the program, Walk Kansas has grown to more than 20,000 participants statewide, said Jackson, who is Extension?s northeast area specialist in family and consumer sciences.

Each year, the participants form teams of six to log 423 miles, the equivalent of walking across Kansas.

This year, she said, some adjustments and additions to the program are expected to keep it fresh and in line with changes in recommendations for health.

The goal in the past has been 30 minutes of aerobic activity each day. But, updated recommendations now call for a total of 21⁄2 hours (150 minutes) of heart-healthy aerobic exercise per week.

?The change in the recommendations offers flexibility in scheduling activities. This includes your taking time off for strength training to build and ? which we?ll be encouraging this year,? Jackson said.

Participants also are encouraged to tally health-promoting fruits, vegetables and whole grains on their menu each week.

?The focus of this eight-week program continues to be fitness and health. Incorporating healthy habits can be helpful in managing weight, hypertension and diabetes, as well as in preventing some cancers and reducing stress,? Jackson said.

The cost to enroll is $7 to cover registration and program materials, which include a weekly newsletter with nutrition and health tips and recipes.