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Association pushes national event to get Americans walking

By Staff | Apr 7, 2009

The American Heart Association has organized National Start! Walking Day on Wednesday, and will begin a lifelong walking campaign by creating a walking path for residents at Joe Stonis Park.
Walking 30 minutes per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, decrease blood pressure, burn body fat and improve mental health.
Danielle Broderick, spokesperson for the AHA, said Walking Day is a national movement with more than 450 events.
“All around the nation different communities are designating a walking path for residents to use throughout the year,” she said.
In Southwest Florida, the organization is holding ribbon-cuttings for four walking paths. Along with the path at Joe Stonis Park, there is one in downtown Fort Myers, at Lakes Regional Park in South Fort Myers and at Cambier Park in Naples.
The Cape Coral path officially opens at noon Wednesday, and organizers are asking residents and their children to attend. Participants should wear green to support National Start! Walking Day.
“Walking is the easiest thing you can do for yourself,” said Broderick. “It is free and a stress reliever. Believe it or not, if you walk like this every day, you are strengthening your heart and muscle.”
According to a study from Harvard Medical School, every time a person exercises for an hour they extend their life by two hours. Heart disease is currently ranked as the number one cause of death in the United States.
Officials from the AHA want to expand the number of paths in Southwest Florida. According to Broderick, the organization wants to designate other paths in Lee and Collier counties.
The Lee Memorial Health System made a three-year commitment to National Start! Walking Day, said Sally Jackson, community projects director.
LMHS recently completed research for its 2017 Community Health Visioning using measurements from the Centers for Disease Control, and it found that Lee County residents are lagging in fitness.
“What we found is that we were lagging others when it came to physical activity as a community,” Jackson said. “We were below the average, and need to focus on finding ways to motivate people.
She said the commitment to Walking Day aims to inspire change and let people know the benefits of walking.
“For the benefit of our employees, patients and whole community, we decided this is a great way to have ongoing campaigns to encourage a more active lifestyle,” Jackson said.
On Wednesday, residents will be joined by Mayor Jim Burch and representatives from LMHS, including Jackson and Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, medical director of The Wellness Center.
For more information on National Start! Walking Day, visit: heart.org/start.