University of Georgia Extension's fall Walk Georgia program encourages Georgians to walk, swim, bike or garden their way to a healthier lifestyle, while learning a little bit more about the state a long the way.
The free, 12-week program is designed to get Georgians moving by helping them track of their physical activity. As participants log their exercise, they virtually travel across the state and learn interesting facts about the counties along the way.
Participants can register individually or form teams of four members. Past team participants have found that competing — informally — against other teams in their community has encouraged their entire team to be more active.
Recent college graduate Andrea Gonzalez of Athens began participating in Walk Georgia with her friends two years ago as a way to keep themselves motivated to exercise.
“I didn’t realize how competitive I would be until I saw the miles my friends were putting up," Gonzalez said. "I kept thinking to myself, ‘If they can do it, so can I!’ I was suddenly motivated to go to the gym, so I could keep up with them. I tried new activities I thought I’d never do, like weightlifting and racquetball."
Participating in a spring session of Walk Georgia also led Gonzalez to run in her first 5K race, which led to her second and then her third.
“I didn’t turn into a gym rat, but even after Walk Georgia was over, I did keep exercising," she said. "In the fall I signed up for group fitness classes, which are awesome, and ran yet another 5K."
Ninety miles away in Griffin, grandmother Bonnie Dials used Walk Georgia to keep her running while she training for her first Peachtree Road Race.
“When I joined the first session, I enjoyed walking across the counties in Georgia and finding out about each county," Dials said. "I have even visited a few in person because of the program. The Walk Georgia program also gives me the motivation to keep going by tracking my mileage—trying to reach a higher goal each session."
Georgian's don't actually have to walk or run to use Walk Georgia’s activity tracker. Participants can log time spent biking, swimming or bowling, as well as spent doing activities like gardening and horseback riding. 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 Walk Georgia fall 2013 session began Sept. 1 and registration will remain open through Oct. 9. Participants can register and log activity online at www.walkgeorgia.org. The fall program ends on Nov. 23.
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Walk Georgia participant Andrea Gonzalez is shown running in the Sigma Alpha 5K in October of 2012, her third race. Her motivation to run first came from competing against her friends through the Walk Georgia program.Download Image