Nutrition Q&A: The Walk Kansas program

Q: What is Walk Kansas? Can anyone join a team and when does it begin?

A: Walk Kansas is a team-based program that will help you and others lead a healthier life by being more active, making better nutrition choices and learning positive ways to deal with stress.

This is how it works:

  • Teams of six people work together during the eight-week challenge, which runs March 18 to May 12.
  • Each team will choose to work toward challenge 1 or challenge 2.

Challenge 1: Each participant reaches the minimum goal for physical activity — 2-1/2 hours of moderate/vigorous activity per week. Collectively over eight weeks, the team would walk 423 miles which is the distance across the state of Kansas. (Fifteen minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity counts as one Walk Kansas mile.)

Challenge 2: Each participant logs 6 hours of moderate/vigorous activity per week. Collectively over eight weeks, the team would walk 1200 miles which is the distance around the perimeter of the state.

Participants log minutes of physical activity and fruits/vegetables consumed each day, and report these weekly to their team captain. Captains report team totals each week. Progress of all teams in Douglas County (and throughout Kansas) can be viewed at

Anyone can be on a Walk Kansas team — co-workers, family members,friends and neighbors. And they don’t even have to live in Douglas County or, for that matter, they don’t even have to live in the state or nation! We’ve had Douglas County team members from across the state, from other states and we’ve even had family members overseas participate. In fact, one individual shared in a success story last year, “Walk Kansas began at the same time I took a two-week tour to Vietnam. Since this meant a lot of time on planes or buses, the program gave me even more impetus to exercise when the opportunity arose. I believe this helped dealing with the stress of long distance travel too.”

Because team members don’t have to walk or be active together, it can still give that added push that we need now and then to start on a more healthful path — and that’s what Walk Kansas does — it motivates you! A 2011 participant commented “Walk Kansas helps get me motivated to increase my exercise on a regular basis. Since the hardest part is getting started, I appreciate the low-key and yet very important peer pressure and accountability that helped jump start my exercise.” You can count individual activity, team activities and you can even count activities that you do with others outside of your team.

New this year: Research is finding that prolonged sitting may be a health risk. If you sit for more than one hour at a time at work, home, while driving or traveling — take a 1 to 2 minute break. Just standing a few minutes every hours makes a difference. Each participant can earn 15 bonus minutes per week for breaking every hour of sitting (during waking hours). If you do this at least 6 days each week, you can add 15 bonus minutes per week.

The registration deadline is March 5 (however, late registrations will be accepted until 1 p.m. March 23). The individual participant fee is $7, plus $2 for each additional family member living in the household. To encourage employers to support wellness, we are offering a $2 off discount per participant (which totals $5 per participant) to workplaces who pay for their employees to participate in Walk Kansas.

Walk Kansas T-shirts are also available in three colors — navy, fuchsia and purple. They cost $7 per participant (size 2XL and larger cost $9).

Even though this is a state-wide initiative, last year, Douglas County alone had 1,127 individuals participate in Walk Kansas. Of the 186 teams, 84 percent were from workplaces.

For much more information on Walk Kansas, go to our website at or call 843-7058 or email me at or Margaret Kalb at

Q: Is walking the only activity that counts?

A: Walking is an activity that most people can do; however, any activity that is at a moderate or vigorous level (for at least 10 consecutive minutes) can count. This could include activities such as swimming, jogging, bike riding, basketball, aerobic exercise, tennis, even pushing a lawnmower. Strength and flexibility exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, working with resistance bands and strength training would also count.

Q: So does Walk Kansas really help individuals lead a healthier lifestyle?

A: Definitely! From the evaluation survey completed in Douglas County at the end of

Walk Kansas last year, 83 percent met the minimum goal for physical activity (150 minutes per week) during the challenge and 63 percent of them were confident that they would continue this amount of physical activity over the next 6 months. Also, 79 percent increased the amount of fruit and/or vegetables that they ate each day.

Some of the physical/emotional changes reported by the participants were:

  • Increased energy (64 percent of participants)
  • Increased muscle strength (30 percent)
  • Increased endurance (48 percent)
  • Increased flexibility (25 percent)
  • Lower blood pressure (9 percent)
  • Lower blood cholesterol (5 percent)
  • Better diabetes control (2 percent)
  • Better attitude (47 percent)
  • Better able to manage stress (32 percent)
  • Improved sleep (35 percent)
  • Decreased weight (33 percent)

Here’s a few more personal “Success Stories” that were shared::

  • While I was the only one in my family to do it, my whole family has increased fruit and vegetable intake. We have been more creative in how we get these items and it has been an ongoing point of discussion.
  • I have had a hard time recovering from a nasty fall, and this program gave me the motivation to try, despite the slow healing in my knees/legs. Thanks to this program, I am walking more often than before, and the muscles in my legs are strengthening. Realization: walk every day, no matter what!
  • It was motivating in our workplace to come together toward a common goal of making ourselves healthier! I appreciate the opportunity to add ways in our jobs to incorporate physical fitness and health as there is a direct impact on performance and productivity!
  • I definitely was more aware of my fruit and vegetable intake, which even though I am aware of the extreme health benefits I tend no to take in the recommended serving amounts. Walk Kansas helps keep my fitness and nutrition as a priority in my busy life! And I feel so much better when those are both a priority.