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Take a (virtual) trip across Pennsylvania with Penn State

Registration deadline is March 29

UNIVERSITY PARK — If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get healthier, then you do not want to miss out on an opportunity from Penn State Extension. Everybody Walk Across Pennsylvania is a free virtual walking program designed to help participants meet their health goals this spring.

The eight-week, semistructured program encourages participants to increase their physical activity and develop healthy eating habits. The program will run from April 5 to May 24.

Participants can join individually or form teams of five with family, friends, coworkers or even the family dog. Since it is a virtual program, locations and times of walking can be customized completely: mornings at the local park, lunchtime at home or around the neighborhood in the evenings. The program also includes an exercise conversion chart to convert many activities into reportable miles.

Extension educators Stacy Reed and Laurie Welch are co-chairs for the program. Last fall, there were 471 registered participants who walked approximately 62,000 miles in all — which works out to crossing the state of Pennsylvania about 220 times, Reed said.

Reed and Welch noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, staying mentally and physically well is more important than ever, and a virtual physical activity program is a great way to stay connected and healthy.

They also stressed the importance of staying up-to-date on CDC, federal, state and local guidelines and mandates for health and safety during the pandemic. While participating in the program, it is vital to adhere to these guidelines. If some teammates are not part of the same household, consider an old-fashioned phone call to walk and talk.

Each team member will try to walk an average of 10 miles per week. Team captains will be asked to report the total number of miles walked, and all participants will receive weekly emails with motivators to keep walking and strategies for healthy eating.

The weekly emails are related to the program’s themes. This year, Penn State Extension is collaborating with the Penn State Cancer Institute to provide more information about health and wellness, healthy eating, chronic illness and cancer prevention resources and tips.

Linda Kim of Pittsburgh was a first-time participant in Walk Across Pennsylvania in the fall. She said she decided to participate in the program because at 68, she wanted to keep active. Even after completing the program, Kim and a group of 14 friends were inspired to keep walking — this time across America, virtually.

“We are in Utah now and heading down the home stretch,” she said. “I think having goal-orientated exercise is better for me, and it’s been working out great.”

Kate McCauley of Ridley is a high school physical education teacher. When she found herself having to teach virtually because of the pandemic, she needed to get creative with ideas for class that were safe for students.

“My students and I loved participating in the Walk Across Pennsylvania program,” said McCauley. “The weekly emails with walking and wellness tips were amazing. I shared them during our Google Meet classes, and we had discussions about the benefits of the program.”

McCauley’s students were walking in the Southeast Delco school communities of Folcroft, Sharon Hill, Glenolden, Darby Township and Collingdale. Students were overwhelmingly positive about their experience with the program. Some of them said participating was a great stress reliever ,while others invited their families to participate, too.

“Some students got competitive with family who didn’t live in the same household to see who could walk the most miles each week,” she said. “The emails from Penn State and having to log miles were great motivators. When the program was over, the majority of my students said they were going to continue walking for exercise.”

McCauley said she plans to participate again and will invite her students and school community to join as well.

More information can be found at extension.psu.edu/everybody-walk-across-pa. The registration deadline is March 29.

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