Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge
On a sunny day just cool enough for a light jacket, I put on my workout gear and joined other University of Mississippi employees who came out to the Circle to walk for good health. We faculty and staff engaged in a ceremonial march as part of a campus-wide walking challenge to help kick off National Start! Walking Day 2011. The American Heart Association bills it as a "movement" -- not a program -- to put a dent in this country's risk of heart disease.
Led by Chancellor Dan Jones, I and about 40 of my fellow Ole Miss employees launched the local leg of this ambitious national effort, and walked a lap in front of the Lyceum, the University's historic administration building.
On this day, UM was singled out as a Platinum-level recipient of the Fit-Friendly Award from the AHA, the highest level of recognition. Winning companies are those that encourage good health and fitness habits by providing foot paths and routes, promoting walking programs and the use of online tracking tools (these allow employees to log their times and distances traveled, plot routes, and even record daily meals and snacks), and allowing staff to wear athletic shoes on designated days, according to the association.
Jones thanked everyone "who's taking their health seriously." He acknowledged that Mississippi has among the highest cardiovascular disease death rates in the country. Need proof? The illustrative map published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is a sad sight to see.
Jones, a physician, former dean of the UM Medical School and past AHA national president, said Ole Miss needs to take the lead in ending the terrible trend.
"... The flagship university in this state needs to be providing leadership for the rest of the state about doing the right thing, and here's the evidence for it," Jones told UM faculty and staff, while holding up the Fit-Friendly Award.
In observance of the initiative, which targets community residents and workplace employees, Start! Walking Paths are sprouting up around the country. Organizers hope folks will either find or start walking trails in their own residential, corporate and campus communities.
While checking out their website, I identified at least nine paths that are located within 20 miles of my ZIP code. That's a good thing, for a change of scenery. You can click here to see which walking paths are located near you.
With Jones at the front of the pack during the walk on the Ole Miss campus, I had a chance to chat with him about the event, and what he sees as UM's responsibility to curb Mississippi's obscene numbers of deaths from heart disease.
Stay tuned for next month's video to hear what he has to say.
In the meantime, I recommend that all of us recognize AHA's recommendations for physical activity, including:
* Making time for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, five days a week
* Remembering that physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day -- three 10-minute sessions is the same as one 30-minute stint!
* Working up to at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day if you're looking to lose weight or maintain your current weight.
The CDC says heart disease and stroke are among the most widespread and costly health problems facing our nation today; but get this -- they also are among the most preventable.
I felt fantastic after the day's short walk and even better knowing that I was doing my heart good. Man, I wished Jack, my son, could have joined in on this. Anyway, I'm excited about us hitting some of those new trails one weekend soon.
Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.
Check out how the other families are doing!