At their Sunshine Meeting public work session this week, the Chester County Commissioners received a report from Health Department Director Jeanne Casner announcing a milestone in the WalkWorks ChesCo! challenge. Since the launch of WalkWorks in April 2017, Chester County residents have clocked up three billion steps in the WalkWorks ChesCo! program.
This past January, the Commissioners set a goal of five billion steps taken by the end of 2018, and also upped the goal to have a minimum of 5,000 registrations on the WalkWorks ChesCo! website to track and tally the steps taken towards the five billion goal. The current number registered exceeds 3,800.
“WalkWorks ChesCo! is engaging many people throughout the county to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle,” said Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Casner. “We know that there are many more residents who actively walk and we’re asking them to sign up to the WalkWorks website to add those steps to our count.”
“And for everyone looking to increase their physical activity, walking is a great first step – pun intended – in doing that,” added Casner.
WalkWorks ChesCo! is a program that promotes, educates and empowers county residents to adopt a healthier lifestyle one step at a time by creating more places for walking, supporting and promoting walking groups, coordinating walking challenges – and importantly – creating the website that allows everyone to track and tally their steps. It is the County’s response to the national Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, a two-year competition that empowers cities and counties across the nation to create a positive health impact. At the end of 2016, the county was selected out of 400 applications as one of 50 members of the HealthyCommunity50 and received $10,000 in community seed funds to establish WalkWorks ChesCo!
Such was the success of the first year of WalkWorks ChesCo! that the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge judging panel awarded Chester County an interim Spotlight Award earlier this year which includes an additional $10,000 to support and promote the program for year-two.
“Not only is WalkWorks ChesCo! creating more places for walking, it is bringing together many different communities and groups in the County with a common purpose of walking,” said Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, who first brought the idea of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to Chester County. “Over the past 18 months we have challenged school students and teachers to walk more, engaged support for the first responder community, highlighted a virtual walking trail around all of Chester County’s libraries and established a step-challenge rivalry between residents in the City of Coatesville and the Borough of Phoenixville known as the Ville to Ville Challenge.”
One of the key components of the WalkWorks ChesCo! program is the specially designed website that tallies all steps taken by residents who register to participate. The website, chesco.org/walkworks, syncs with most devices and mobile apps that already track steps and it also allows users to convert other physical exercise into steps to be manually added.
“Three billion steps is a great achievement – but I know we can do more and I encourage everyone to take a few moments to register with WalkWorks, sync their walking devices or manually enter their daily step count,” added Farrell.
Next month, Chester County will be holding Chester County Walks Week to highlight the many physical and mental health benefits of walking, and to place a further spotlight on WalkWorks ChesCo! Details of the week include school walking challenges, the launch of a new WalkWorks trail in the Borough of West Chester, a second Ville to Ville Challenge, and a virtual walking tour of many Chester County farms.
“Walking is the most simple and inexpensive form of exercise and can happen in towns, on trails, in our parks and even in the home,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “The beauty of WalkWorks ChesCo! is that it doesn’t just direct people to get out and walk, it creates and highlights walking opportunities like safe walking trails established in our town centers, and maps of established trails throughout the County. It also encourages partnerships with health organizations, physicians, schools, senior centers, chambers of commerce, non-profits, scout troops and many other community and civic organizations – all in an effort to increase physical activity.”
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone added, “The benefits of walking are many. Yes, it is simple and all you need are a comfortable pair of shoes, but it also helps to improve a person’s mental health, reduce chronic disease risks and, of course, burn calories. And as the County strives to develop more walkable communities in our boroughs and the City of Coatesville, walking is becoming an additional – and healthy – method of transportation.”
If judged the most successful Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge program, Chester County will receive $500,000 which will be used to further enhance health programs for all county residents. The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a partnership established between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties.
More information about the WalkWorks ChesCo! program and how to register can be found at chesco.org/walkworks.