02/01/11

Biking, Walking & Blogging: Winter Walk Off - Get Outside and Get Moving!Biking, Walking & Blogging: Winter Walk Off - Get Outside and Get Moving!

Winter Walk Off - Get Outside and Get Moving!

From Alicia Adams, Program Outreach Coordinator

As I was walking with a friend to the local store recently, she turned to me and said, "Minnesotans are some of the toughest people. We don't let below zero temperatures scare us off!" I chuckled for a minute, but then I paused to think about it. Minnesotans are pretty tough!

When I first moved to Minnesota from southern California, I shivered at the mere thought of 50 degree weather in April. A temperature of 40 degrees warranted bringing out "the big coat."  However, something happened on a fateful December day in 1996. I arrived in Minnesota, and I got tough. I couldn't let below freezing weather keep me from getting where I needed to go, and since I didn't drive, I learned how to bundle up and walk. If my mom needed butter from the store, I would put on my layers and bravely face the cold-on foot. By January, the thought of 50 degree weather in April seemed more and more like a pre summer treat! As I walked through the snow, I learned a lot about myself and my new neighborhood. I learned that a lady down the street had a fluffy white dog named Snowball, who ironically hated the snow. I learned that wool socks would keep my feet much warmer than my favorite knee high striped cotton socks. And I learned that ice cream was still my favorite treat, even if it was only 2 degrees outside!

I share my first winter walking experience with you on the eve of Bike Walk Week's first Winter Walk off, a social media campaign to encourage people to get out and get moving during the month of February. I could tell you about the great health benefits that come from walking-lower blood pressure and cholesterol, a slimmer waistline, and so on --but you've heard all of those before. You know that walking is great for your physical health, but what about the effects of walking on your mental health? Walking regularly has been known to reduce stress from work and school. And there's a certain sense of pride and empowerment you get when you look winter in her frosty eyes and let her know that she cannot keep you from getting your daily walk.

I know that I'm not the only tough one here in Minnesota. I know there are thousands of you that are still walking no matter the weather and thousands more who want to try winter walking!  BWTC has been doing monthly counts of bicyclists and people walking for almost two years. Our data that from 2009 show that on the worst winter day 68% of people are still out walking where they need to go and on a clear winter day 81% are out walking.

This campaign is for everyone. Visit the bike walk week website [LINK: www.bikewalkweek.org] and register for the 2011 Winter Walkoff. By registering, you're simply pledging that you will get out and walk at least once a day for the entire month of February. The walks don't have to be long; you can walk around your block or to your local coffee shop. Once you register, share your stories/pictures on Facebook and on Twitter using the hashtag, #winterwalkoff. You can check the bike walk week website regularly for all of the Winter Walkoff tweets and updates. At the end of the month, we'll all meet up to celebrate our winter walking success!