Evanston Wraps up Successful 2nd Annual Women Out Walking Program – 208 Million Steps Later

The Evanston Health Department recently completed its second year of its Women Out Walking (WOW) program.

Building upon the success and support of 500 women from the first year, the 2010 initiative saw approximately 1100 women participating in this community health initiative—more than double the previous year.

The goal of this program is to encourage women to live healthier lifestyles and become more physically active through either walking or participation in a fun activity that offers health benefits, like yoga, gardening, biking, etc. In order to do this, women were not only incentivized through weekly challenges and prizes, but were invited to monthly workshops, group walks and healthy cooking demonstrations.

“This year the program garnered greater growth in community partners and corporate support. Additionally, several local employers allowed the city to either offer the program to their employees as part of their wellness initiative or assisted us in the recruitment of participants,” explains Evonda Thomas, director of Evanston’s Health Department. “We believe that this level of support speaks directly to the great need for this type of information and programming in the community.”

As a campaign, the 2010 WOW women accounted for approximately 208 million steps, with the top performer, Debbie O’Connor, accounting for over 3 million of those steps. Throughout this program the city received many “success stories” of individuals who have lost weight, improved overall physical fitness, have reduced stress levels, and have received valuable tools to improve their health and the health of their family members.

To put 208 million steps into perspective, according to thewalkingsite.com, the average person’s stride length is approximately 2.5 feet long. That means it takes just over 2,000 steps to walk one mile, and 10,000 steps is close to 5 miles. So, the WOW program’s participants accounted for approximately 104,000 miles walked collectively.

Equally as encouraging are the reports from dedicated walkers who are interested in the health benefits of walking, but are more appreciative of the defined time that they had to spend with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. They also share feedback on the importance of empowering women.

“Thank you for providing this opportunity again. One of my teammates lost 17 pounds and walked 20,000 more steps each week over last year. It was a great way to encourage those of us who need a little kick in the pants to get started,” says participant Chris VanderPal.

“Although educating the community on the health benefits of a more physically active lifestyle was the program’s main focus, one of the greatest program accomplishments was the participant diversity; WOW walkers represent various age groups, races/ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. WOW brings us one step closer to achieving our goal of creating a healthier Evanston,” says Thomas.

And, Evanston has another health initiative coming up: Walk Week, August 30—September 3. To mark the beginning of the school year, the City of Evanston’s Health Department promoting Walk Week, a one week program during the first week of school, to promote physical activity in children.