Extension offices to kick off state walking campaign

The University of Georgia’s statewide Cooperative Extension Service is encouraging Georgia residents to –– in the words of Olivia Newton John –– “get physical,” by getting off their couches and going for a walk.

The extension service is launching its annual “Walk Georgia” campaign in February, with registration beginning on Wednesday, and running through March 17. Participants will then be asked to keep an online log of their physical activity, from Feb. 12, through May 5.

Walkers will log their activity on www.walkgeorgia.org, which will then show them how far they have moved along a route on an interactive map of Georgia. It will also show them information about the places they have reached on their online map, according to the campaign’s web site.

“Walk Georgia is an 12-week program to increase your physical activity in a fun, community-oriented way,” the extension service explains on the “Walk Georgia” web site. “You may participate as an individual, and track your progress with other individuals in your county and state, or form a team of four to exercise together.”

Five metro-Atlanta-area extension service offices, representing Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties, are scheduled to host a state-wide kick-off “Walk Georgia Night with the Atlanta Hawks,” at the Hawks’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers, on Saturday, at 7p.m., at Philips Arena, in Atlanta.

Clayton County Cooperative Extension Coordinator Kim Siebert could not be reached for comment about the kick-off event. People who want to participate in it, must purchase tickets (admission will be $10), by Thursday, by logging onto ticketmaster.com, or clicking a link offered on walkgeorgia.com. Anyone buying tickets to attend the game as a “Walk Georgia” program participant is asked to type in the special offer code “hawks” during the purchase of their tickets.

People who sign-up will be allowed to participate in pre-game festivities, which include forming a “fan tunnel” on the court and high-fiving Hawks players as they come out before the game begins. Particpants will also be allowed to make free-throw attempts on the arena floor after the game, according to a extension service promotional flyer.

Walking has long been touted by fitness advocates as one way people can improve their health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that, as of 2008, 23.2 percent of Georgia residents are engaging in no physical activities during their leisure time.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults take part in at least 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” exercise, such as walking, every day, to see “substantial health benefits,” according to its web site, www.health.gov/.

The long list of benefits from such exercise includes a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and colon and breast cancers, a lower risk of early death, and reduced depression, according to the department.