The University of Alberta is taking strides to show how everyday fitness doesn’t have to be gruelling to have an impact.
In fact, it can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.
UWALK is a new campaign striving to get more Albertans on their feet for increased fitness and well-being. It was developed by the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation and funded by the provincial government for the next three years.
The program, featuring an interactive website that monitors all kinds of activity and converts it automatically into a number of steps, is free year-round and officially launched in Red Deer last month.
Users can log their steps, participate in a number of walking and stair climbing challenges, and connect with other friends on UWALK.
It’s a fun way to encourage people to live up to the recommended physical activity requirements of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movement per week, said Tamara Greba, the City of Red Deer’s recreation facilities supervisor.
“Many think you need to go and spend money, work out hard in the gym to be active. But there’s great health benefits in doing 10,000 steps a day,” Greba said.
February was Red Deer’s fitness month and when the city partnered with UWALK as well as the Primary Care Network, it made the initiative that much bigger, Greba said.
“We’re going to do more UWALK events because it’s been successful. It’s easy. It’s free. You can do steps at home. You put a pedometer on and it’s pretty incredible how quickly you can get to 4,000 steps.”
The dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, Kerry Mummery, an internationally recognized researcher in areas of physical activity and population health, made a special presentation in Red Deer during the city’s UWALK kickoff event on Feb. 4. Mummery, the principal lead behind UWALK, was the main architect behind Australia’s popular 10,000 Steps program, designed to promote physical activity.
About 40 Red Deerians of all ages turned out to hear Mummery and later joined him on a brisk walk around the track at the Collicutt Centre, said Greba.
Feb. 5 marked another walking event for Red Deer, Winter Walk Day hosted by Shape Alberta. Over 144,804 Albertans hit the pavement that day, braving frigid temperatures.
Red Deer has enthusiastically taken up the UWALK torch, said Kenton Delisle, a registered dietitian and UWALK’s project co-ordinator.
“Red Deer seems to be a very proactive community and is a big part of our UWALK contingent, as much as 25 per cent of all our registered users,” Delisle said, noting that’s second only to Edmonton, where UWALK is headquartered and first kicked off in September.
UWALK has a total of 2,200 users across the province and over 570 people from Red Deer have signed up.
“The research is supporting what we’ve really always known: that walking is the best bang for your buck to make a difference and with the most basic movement many of us can do easily. Walking is a step towards a better quality of life and better health outcomes so it’s something we want to champion,” Delisle said.
“Walking that extra length across the parking lots counts and we can measure that now and show how it all adds up.”
UWALK is also open to those in wheelchairs and offers a way wheelchair users can log their activity through the use of an odometer.
To help track steps, UWALK also runs its Pedometer Library Loan Program in six library systems across Alberta, serving about 160 communities. This program allows walkers to loan UWALK pedometer kits. Delisle said they soon hope to start the library program in Red Deer, Calgary and the Peace River region.
To become involved in UWALK or for more information, visit uwalk.ca.