Press Release

May 18, 2005

Other state agencies invited to participate in walking program

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In the past four months, Illinois Department of Public Health employees have taken enough steps to walk around the world more than four times in response to a challenge by Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, to “practice what we preach.”

The 377 employees who participated in the Department’s 12-week Public Health Out Walking (PHOW) program logged 210,523,013 steps.

“As public health professionals, we are aware of the health concerns related to inactivity, including heart disease and obesity,” Dr. Whitaker said. “We create, regulate and implement programs that benefit the public’s health, but often times we don’t take care of ourselves. I felt it was time that we practice what we preach.”

Dr. Whitaker is encouraging all state agencies to organize a similar walking program within their own agencies and pledged the Department’s assistance in getting an exercise program started.

“Our employees have seen the benefits of increased exercise, such as more energy and better health, and I’d like to extend an invitation to other state agencies so their employees also can reap the benefits that come with being more active,” Dr. Whitaker said. The offer of assistance was extended at the Department’s annual Fitness Day event, which was held today in conjunction with the National Employee Health and Fitness Day.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed today Fitness Day in Illinois. Louanner Peters, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Social Services, spoke at the event about the Governor’s commitment to physical fitness.

“IDPH is on the move and Gov. Blagojevich is on the move with you,” she said. “The governor is proud of the lead IDPH has taken in terms of promoting fitness. As many of you know, the governor is a runner, and there is no one who is more committed to fitness and healthy lifestyles.”

Public Health Out Walking was based on the Department’s Office of Women’s Health “Women Out Walking” mini-grant program and was designed to raise the awareness of daily physical activity to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, a “Women out Walking” grantee, has approximately 170 women participating in its walking effort.

“It’s a life-changing program,” said Mary Rudnicki, manager of community health initiatives at Provena. “The women have learned to challenge themselves by walking more each day. They take the time to walk, whether they do it by themselves or with friends or family. Their motivation is the enhanced physical and mental health they have experienced from walking.”

While a typical adult averages between 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day, Dr. Whitaker urged employees to strive for 10,000 steps a day – roughly the equivalent of walking five miles. By increasing the number of daily steps, the director said employees could experience increased energy, less stress and better weight management, and decrease the chance of developing many illnesses.

Participants were given pedometers and asked to complete a daily, weekly and monthly step log. Employees were encouraged to walk during breaks and at lunch time, as well as before and after work.

“The pedometer served as a constant reminder to walk more,” Dr. Whitaker said. “More steps means more exercise, more calories burned and more health benefits.”

There are many ways to increase daily steps, including:

  • Parking in the furthest space from a store or work
  • Walking, running and playing with children or grandchildren
  • Walking the dog
  • Mowing the yard with a push mower
  • Taking a walking break instead of a coffee break at work
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Getting up to change the television channel

As part of today’s Fitness Day activities, Dr. Whitaker presented awards to the top 10 walkers and ribbons to the 92 employees who met the challenge of averaging at least 70,000 steps a week for the 12 weeks of the program. All other employees who participated in the program also were recognized for their efforts.

“I hope the conclusion of the program marks just the beginning of a regular exercise program for our employees,” Dr. Whitaker said.

Below are tips that anyone can use to start a walking program or to stay motivated with your current program.

  • Set goals that you can fulfill. Write down your goals and plan a reward for yourself when you make it.
  • Make it as easy for you to exercise as possible. Find a place closer to where you live or work to exercise.
  • Choose a person or a pet to walk with you. They can make it more fun for you-and your friend will be asking you to join her in the future. It is also harder to drop out if you have friendly motivation.
  • Make it fun! Find an activity or location that you enjoy. You will be less likely to stay with it if you don’t enjoy what you are doing.
  • Make it musical. Exercising to music can be fun and helps reduce stress.
  • To keep it interesting, pick different routes to follow.
  • Stay within a safe range of activity. Make sure you can hold a conversation during an exercise.
  • Find ways to be active when the weather is not cooperating. Be sure to have back-up plans.
  • Plan time for exercise, just like you would a doctor’s appointment- write it in your calendar.
  • Join the crowd. Plan to participate in a community fun run or walk can help keep your interest. You might help out a good cause by paying a small entrance fee and it’s a good way to meet other people who are active.
  • Don’t wait for the end of the day to find time to exercise. Plan for it early in the day. People who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to stick with it-and it also saves on the number of showers and clothing changes you have to make.
  • Decide whether you are a morning, afternoon, or evening person. It may be helpful to try to exercise when you have the most energy and are most awake.
  • On days when you don’t feel like doing the whole routine, how about exercising for just 10-15 minutes? Once you get going, you may find that you want to keep going. If not, at least you got some activity into your day.
  • Keep an exercise log. This helps you to keep track of how far you have come since you started and helps you plan future goals.
  • Be sure to include rest days. Anything done to extremes is unhealthy and can get dull. Try not to take more than two days off in a row.
  • Add purpose to your activity. If you find ways to get errands done at the same time, you may be more likely to fit activity in. Walk, bike to work, park farther away or walk errands over the lunch hour.




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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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