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Grant aims to fight area's ranking as America's 10th most overweight

Rebekah Wilson • Jul 11, 2013 at 8:39 AM

According to America’s Health Rankings, more than one-third of children in Tennessee are overweight, and the Bristol/Kingsport metropolitan area is ranked the 10th most overweight metropolitan region in the United States.Kingsport Tomorrow received a $7,500 grant from the 1st and 10 Foundation to promote walking because of its numerous mental and physical benefits.The grant-funded program, “Walking — The Prescription to Better Health,” includes the eight-week challenge Let’s Move Kingsport! and two Fun Fest walks on Saturday, July 20. Parks and Recreation is also incorporating approximately one mile of daily walking into their eight-week summer program for children, in which 378 are enrolled.Let’s Move Kingsport! encourages people to commit to walk 30 minutes per day for five days during an eight-week period. When folks register, they will receive guidebooks complete with tracking logs, health information and goal setting devices. Walkers who complete the two-month challenge will receive various rewards.People may register individually but are encouraged to register in groups. More than 20 groups have already registered, including one with 100 members.The 1st and 10 Foundation was established by Chad and Robin Pennington in 2003 to build stronger communities and to improve the quality of life in West Virginia and East Tennessee. Chad played college football with Marshall University and professional football with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.The walking program is based on research by Dr. Mike Evans of the Health Design Lab of Toronto, Canada. His results, entitled “23 1/2 Hours,” show that walking 30 minutes to an hour a day can greatly reduce health risks like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and anxiety.According to America’s Health Rankings, Tennessee is ranked 42nd for obesity, 46th for diabetes and 45th for physical activity.In Sullivan County, 37.6 percent of adults do not exercise, and 36.4 percent are obese.Tennessee annually spends about $1.5 billion of taxpayers’ dollars on obesity-related health issues, which can be avoided with regular walking.According to his research, walking 30 minutes to an hour per day improves both physical and mental health and prevents a number of common conditions.It has been shown to decrease pain and disability from knee arthritis by 47 percent and to reduce the risk of hip fracture in post-menopausal women by 41 percent.It decreases heart disease rates by almost 50 percent and lowers the risk of premature death by 23 percent.Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Tennessee, but walking lowers the risk of diabetes by 58 percent. For every 10 minutes of added walking, the risk of high blood pressure is reduced by 12 percent.Evans’ studies also show that daily walking is the number one treatment for fatigue. It is a healthy method of coping with stress, even after a long day of working, running errands and tending to family needs.It improves the overall quality of life — physically, mentally and socially.It decreases anxiety and slows the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s by about 50 percent.Depression can be stunted by 30 to 47 percent by walking.It brings people together and encourages exploration of the natural and built environment.Mark Fenton, author and advocate for “Health and the Built Environment,” a former Olympic race walker and host of the PBS show “America Walks,” said that Kingsport is one of America’s most “walkable” cities.Among the many places to hike and walk in Kingsport are the Greenbelt, Borden Park and the trails at Bays Mountain Park.

Banding together with neighbors, co-workers and friends to walk regularly can help keep people motivated and can be a stimulating social outlet.Walking in 10-minute increments throughout the day is a simple way of meeting the goal while balancing a busy schedule.In conjunction with Fun Fest, the grant is also funding two walks. The Stroll-R-Walk With Healthy Kingsport will begin after the hot air balloon launch at the Palmer Center around 7 a.m. Before the 15-minute walk, families will have the opportunity to decorate strollers, wagons and wheelchairs.The Walk Along the River With Healthy Kingsport will be a 2.1-mile walk by the Holston River on the Greenbelt. Participants can begin at three different locations: at Rotherwood Road, at the Netherland Inn or at a tent by Mad Rabbit.Walkers can register for the eight-week Let’s Move Kingsport! program at both events.People can also register at the Kingsport Tomorrow office at 301 Louis St. or by calling 246-2017.Tracking logs must be turned in by Oct. 1 to Kingsport Tomorrow.

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