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Walk Georgia is for all ages By Andrea Gonzalez

From children to adults, Georgians across the state are working toward a healthier lifestyle with the help of a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension fitness program called Walk Georgia. Since the program began in 2008, 20,000 participants have logged more than 2.2 million "virtual" miles of physical activity.

The Walk Georgia spring 2011 session starts next month. Registration will be open from Feb. 20 to March 9. Participants can begin logging activity March 6. To register or learn more about the program, visit www.walkgeorgia.org, or call your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Students at Vickery Creek Elementary School in Cumming, Ga., have been anticipating the spring session since last fall, when teachers formed several teams and hung large colorful posters in the hallways to track their progress. According to school nurse Ann Moore, this sparked interest from more students to get involved this spring.

The 8-week program is a free service designed to get Georgia residents moving by tracking physical activities. Participants virtually walk across the state and learn interesting facts about the counties as they log their activity online.

Vickery Creek students "have been eager to learn historical facts about each county and have been sharing this information on the school’s morning news,” Moore said.

Georgians can register individually or form teams of up to four members. By participating as a community, the program becomes more competitive as members of the team challenge each other to get fit. Anyone who has access to a computer can join.

A wide range of activities, including aerobics, biking, swimming and even bowling, can be logged. The time spent exercising is translated into walked miles online as members work to travel across the state. The goal is to walk 15 miles per week.

“The program has encouraged our children to establish healthier lifestyles and has given them the incentive to try to maintain these good habits,” Moore said.

(Andrea Gonzalez is a writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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