YMCA of Birmingham Launches Mission to the Moon to Fight Obesity Epidemic

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YMCA of Birmingham and Champions for Health are hosting an October Walking Challenge designed to get residents of Jefferson County, Ala. to become more physically active. The goal is for residents to walk a combined 250,000 miles, roughly the distance to the moon. Participants submit time or miles spent exercising online at http://www.walkingworks.com.

Black Girls Run, aka BGR, signed up a team

Organizers of the October Walking Challenge launched the month-long mission at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham on Saturday, Oct. 1.

"Walking is vital for good health and key to maintaining or losing weight," says Jerri Haslem project director for YMCA of Birmingham. "We felt like we had to reach for the moon to get back on track, and that's just what we're going to do."

For the month of October, YMCA of Birmingham and Champions for Health are challenging Jefferson County residents to walk 250,000 miles, approximately the distance to the moon. The October Walking Challenge seeks to raise awareness of the value of walking — and physical activity in general — for overall health.

The endeavor launched with a kick-off rally at Railroad Park on Saturday, Oct. 1. Organizers registered teams and individuals interested in helping curb the area's well-known obesity problem.

“Everybody knows Alabama has a weight problem. But what’s the solution?” says Jerri Haslem, project director for Community Health Initiatives at YMCA of Birmingham. “Walking is vital for good health and key to maintaining or losing weight. We felt like we had to reach for the moon to get back on track, and that's just what we're going to do.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Alabama is the second fattest state in the country. Physical activity — defined as at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking — is a proven way to lose weight and is important for good overall health.

Registration and tracking will take place online at http://www.championsforhealth.org. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama provided its Walking Works portal for the month-long challenge. For those without a pedometer, the tracking tool determines miles based on activity duration.

Resources are also available to convert other activities, such as bicycling or gardening, to walking. For example, one hour of light-to-moderate gardening is about the same as walking for one hour. The first 2,500 walkers to accumulate reach a total of 50 miles or more (in the month of October) will receive a free t-shirt from the YMCA to commemorate their success.

Champions for Health will be using social media to share tips, best practices and facts about physical activity and walking throughout the month of October (#Walktober on Twitter; Champions for Health on Facebook).

“Autumn is ‘fun run season’ across the county,“ Haslem explains. “We’re really encouraging those people participating in other walks and athletic events to sign up for our this challenge to help us accomplish our mission. It’s a lofty goal, but we can achieve it together.”

To learn more about the October Walking Challenge, contact Jerri Haslem at (205) 801-7222 or jhaslem(at)ymcabham(dot)org or visit http://www.championsforhealth.org.

Champions for Health is an initiative of the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, a coalition of more than 100 nonprofit organizations working alongside the Jefferson County Department of Health to encourage physical activity, reduce obesity, expand food access, advance smoke-free policies, reduce tobacco use and improve the overall health of Jefferson County residents. http://www.championsforhealth.org.

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Michael Hansen

Jerri Haslem
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