Inside Kentucky Health
Taking a walk may be the easiest way to get some exercise and stay healthy. It requires no special equipment, and can be accomplished almost anywhere.
And officials from the Kentucky Department of Health believe making our communities more walkable will translate into making our citizens more healthy. There is plenty of evidence that simply taking a daily walk can help reduce the impact of chronic diseases that afflict so many Kentuckians.
“Getting people to move more starts with improving the places we live, learn, work and play,” said Elaine Russell, coordinator for Kentucky’s Obesity Prevention Program. “Communities can be built for people to be active in their everyday life. By providing safe, attractive and convenient places to walk, anybody can incorporate exercise into their daily routine.”
Those improvements can be as simple as adding sidewalks to neighborhoods, but it’s also about bringing some bigger projects to life. In Louisville, the Big Four Bridge provides a scenic and fun place for walking and biking that’s attracting visitors from all across the region. Meanwhile, an expansion of Waterfront Park right near the bridge is currently in the planning stages.
In eastern Jefferson County, the 4,000-acre Parklands of Floyds Fork offers miles of recreational walking and biking trails. And Louisville’s master plan includes a proposed 100-mile trail system around the city known as the Louisville Loop.
Still, there are parts of the region that aren’t inviting to walkers, where safety is an issue and sidewalks aren’t adequate.
Last year, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recognized that only half of adults and about one-quarter of high school students get the amount of physical activity recommended in national guidelines. That led to a national campaign pointing out the importance of walking and creating walkable communities.
Kentucky’s program is built upon the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.
The “Step it Up Kentucky” campaign encourages communities to create more walkable communities. It started with a June 21 proclamation from Gov. Matt Bevin, which proclaimed the benefits of walking.
The Kentucky campaign suggests steps individuals can take to help spread the message, including posting on social media, getting involved on an organizational level, and even producing way-finding signage in neighborhoods.
The campaign puts it simply: “By building places where being physically active is easy, safe, and fun, we can create a culture that supports active lifestyles for people of all abilities, including those who run, bike, skate or use wheelchairs. We see this as the first step on a long journey to better health.”