Walking initiative offers many lasting benefits

September 2, 2018
Greater Huntington Walks organizer Andy Fischer and Valerie Blankenship are pictured on Wednesday in Huntington.

The milestone reached last week by more than 2,300 Huntington area people wasn’t exactly a “giant leap for mankind,” as astronaut Neil Armstrong described the achievement of being the first human to step onto the moon in 1969. However, the accomplishments, both collectively and individually, by those who participated in the Greater Huntington Walks campaign say a lot about the growing community spirit in Huntington.

Just as importantly, the campaign may have ingrained in many people the health benefits of walking — perhaps the most valuable enduring benefit from the initiative.

The goal of Greater Huntington Walks was to have residents take enough steps combined to total 478 million, which was determined as enough to cover a distance equal to one person walking the 238,900-mile distance to the moon.

The campaign, which was launched in mid-July, was the brainchild of Andrew Fischer, a Huntington resident and senior vice president and branch director for RBC Wealth Management. The purpose was for Huntington to be viewed as a healthy and active community for people to live in, work in and visit. It aimed to promote and enhance the health of people by encouraging walking and activity and working together to achieve a publicly stated objective.

Consider the initiative a success.

The target date to accumulate those 478 million steps was the end of 2018. But only 43 days into the campaign, the goal was met last week. Now, a new target has been set for participants: walk another 478 million steps to represent walking from the moon back to earth. There’s little doubt that will be accomplished.

Beyond the overall success of the campaign, there were many individual accomplishments for those who participated. For example, Valerie Blankenship, who works in downtown Huntington, had an aversion to walking before the campaign began. But after witnessing the excitement of co-workers, she chose to participate. Now she averages between 7,500 and 10,000 steps per day and has lost almost 12 pounds this summer. “It’s just something that has changed my perspective on walking,” Blankenship told The Herald-Dispatch. “It clears my mind when I walk, and it’s very refreshing for me to see other people and families out walking. ... to be able to see the good things and promote something good about Huntington is a really big deal.”

The personal health benefits from walking also are a big deal. A collection of research on walking presented by Consumer Reports earlier this year spelled them out: lowers body mass index, an indicator of obesity; lowers blood pressure and cholesterol; lowers blood sugar, to help avoid diabetes; better memory and cognitive function; lowers stress and improves a person’s mood; and contributes to a longer life.

Those are powerful arguments for those who participated in Greater Huntington Walks to keep at it, and for those who didn’t to consider joining future campaign efforts.

Fischer plans for Greater Huntington Walks to continue, and organizers already are looking forward to the future with the prospects of getting more people involved through schools and Marshall University.

We congratulate all of those who made the campaign successful: Fischer; institutional partners such as Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Marshall University, HIMG, the city and others; and most of all, the 2,300 people who stepped up time and again.

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