FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2005
SPRINGFIELD – State employees from ten different agencies are lacing up their tennis shoes and strapping on their pedometers to participate in the Fit 4 Life State Agency Walking Challenge, part of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s comprehensive fitness and wellness initiative. The six-week program will challenge state employees to walk 10,000 steps per day. The program began Monday and will end the last day of the Illinois State Fair, August 21.
“Exercising regularly not only improves your physical health, but can also help relieve stress and anxiety and increase your energy level,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I challenge our state employees and all Illinoisans to participate in some form of fitness to improve their health and overall well-being. Fit 4 Life is one way we can help our state employees take steps to stay fit.”
A startling 66 percent of all Americans are overweight, with more than 30 percent considered obese. Illinois statistics are comparable to the national trend, with more than 60 percent of Illinois adults 18 and older being overweight or obese. Obesity related medical expenditures for Illinois are estimated at $3.4 billion, with $805 million financed by Medicare and $1 billion financed by Medicaid.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) piloted a similar walking program and nearly one-third of the Department’s employees participated, walking a total of 210 million steps over a 12-week period. Gov. Blagojevich asked Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, to offer other state agencies assistance in implementing a similar walking challenge.
“Our program was a success and we want other state agencies to reap the same health benefits,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Employees can experience increased energy, less stress and better weight management, and decrease the chance of developing many illnesses if they add exercise into their daily lives. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
A typical adult averages 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day but Fit 4 Life challenges 10,000 steps, which is the equivalent of five miles per day. There are many ways to increase your steps, for example, walking on lunch breaks, parking farther away from the store or work, or taking stairs instead of the elevator.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) and IDPH are working together to implement various activities and events that will eventually be a part of Fit 4 Life to raise awareness of the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles.
“We have instituted a model within DHS to make positive health behavioral changes and increase health and fitness awareness by providing employees the opportunity to join this fitness challenge,” said Carol L. Adams, Ph. D., secretary of the Department of Human Services.
The following state agencies will be participating in Fit 4 Life:
· Department of Agriculture
· Capital Development Board
· Department of Corrections
· Department of Employment Security
· Department of Human Services
· Department of Healthcare and Family Services
· Department of Public Health
· Department of Revenue
· State Board of Education
· State Universities Civil Service System
Participants are able to register to participate in Fit 4 Life and track their progress electronically throughout the six-week program. The competitive challenge will allow employees to see how agencies rank in terms of average number of steps taken per week. At the conclusion of the program, data will indicate which agency has shown the most improvement by comparing steps taken the first three weeks with the final three weeks of the program.