GURNEE – The Gurnee Park District is introducing a new healthy lifestyle campaign it hopes will inspire residents to get moving by walking just 30 minutes a day.
The “Go Gurnee” initiative was created in response to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s call to action to promote walking and walkable communities at the National Park and Recreation conference last September.
“It’s such a simple thing people can do to make a huge difference in their lives in terms of their physical and mental health,” said Susie Kuruvilla, Gurnee Park District executive director. “We have to do this. It’s in our mission to enhance the lives of the people in our community.”
“We really, truly care. We’re really excited about this,” she said.
The idea behind Go Gurnee is for residents to commit to walking every day throughout the month of May at 6:30 p.m. in their neighborhood, in a park or on a trail.
Though residents are encouraged to go for a walk at whatever time is convenient for them, the park district suggested 6:30 p.m. so families could participate together.
“It’s good to have a set time to develop a habit and new lifestyle,” said Jennifer Gilbert, marketing/public relations manager for the Gurnee Park District.
“We hope to get our community rallied around a universal value regardless of where people sit on their political or religious views. Health is a universal value. People are looking for a better quality of life. We feel the park district can make a bold statement and get the community excited, engaged and connected,” Gilbert said.
A community walk scheduled for 6 p.m. May 1 in Viking Park, 4374 Old Grand Ave., Gurnee, will kick-off the campaign.
“I walk every night for my own health, to de-stress and organize my thoughts for the next day. It’s a great low impact exercise,” said Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik, who will participate in the kick-off event.
Benefits of walking
Though it doesn’t sound like much, physicians advise that walking for 30 minutes a day five days a week can improve one’s overall health.
“Walking for just 30 minutes a day helps treat and reduce chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, plus it helps improve your mood. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant. It also helps with arthritis and mobility. It really has a lot of benefits,” said Dr. Amy Woike of Aurora Health Care in Gurnee.
As a society, we have become more sedentary, said Dr. Arpita Patel-Mehta of Aurora Health Care in Gurnee. “We drive to work, sit at work, drive home from work, then sit on our sofas. Kids are spending more time at the computer and with their mobile devices.”
Finding time to exercise is something Patel-Mehta often discusses with her patients. If you can’t do 30 minutes, “Studies have shown that 10-minute walks three times a day are just as effective,” she said. “The goal is to move.”
Parking your car further from your destination and taking the stairs are simple ways to get in more steps, Woike said. “It really does add up.”
For people who don’t exercise regularly or have never exercised but want to make a lifestyle change, Patel-Mehta recommends taking it slow.
“Some people will join a gym and spend an hour huffing and puffing. What happens the next day is they wake up sore as heck, they feel miserable and never want to go back. That’s not the way to do it,” Patel-Mehta said.
“Start slowly with five minutes. Walk to the mailbox and back. Maybe the next day walk to your neighbor’s mailbox. Add more time each day and increase your pace," Patel-Mehta.
Where to walk
The beauty of walking for exercise is there is no shortage of places to do it, and it’s free.
Increasing “walkability” throughout the community is one of the key initiatives that came out of an update to the Village of Gurnee’s strategic plan, Kovarik said.
“We'll be forming a citizen committee shortly to better define the objectives and develop tactics to update the village pedestrian and bike path plan from 1999,” she said. “Part of the update to the plan will be connecting neighborhoods with commercial destinations.”
Kovarik praised the Gurnee Park District for helping to raise awareness of the importance of exercise to maintain one’s health.
“The park district is taking the lead on getting people back in the habit of moving to improve health and the village will focus on expanding those opportunities,” she said.
The campaign doesn’t end after the month of May. A “keep walking” rally will be held in Viking Park at 6 p.m. June 1. To keep residents engaged, the park district is also planning special incentives and prizes to be posted on social media.
To become an ambassador for the Go Gurnee campaign, sign up at www.surveymonkey.com/r/GOGURNEE. Go Gurnee “champions” will receive a free, limited edition T-shirt.