Tillamook County residents “”Stepped Up!” in a big way this summer! Thanks to generous sponsors and a grant secured by Tillamook Regional Medical Center, instructor guided walking groups met weekly over the past six months, with participants collectively logging thousands of miles during the program.

Funding for the “Step it Up!” program came from the Knight Cancer Institute’s Community Partnership Program.  The program was offered throughout the state and is based on compelling research showing how combining physical activity with social support reduces cancer occurrence and even recurrence.

“We often refer to risk factors when we talk about chronic disease or cancer,” said Michelle Jenck, project coordinator.  “What we really should be talking about are ‘protective’ factors.  There are so many positive things we can do with our bodies and minds that prevent us from developing chronic conditions. This was a great opportunity to highlight that.”

In all, 50 people met weekly April through September, to enjoy a 30-minute group walk at least one day each week in various locations throughout the county.  All-group activities were held each month to allow members from different walking groups to meet and experience new walking venues.  Group hikes were held at Kilchis Point, Whalen Island, Nehalem Bay State Park and in Pacific City along a community boardwalk leading to a beach overlook.

To celebrate, an all-group potluck was held on September 16th at which participants shared their experiences.  Overwhelmingly, people said they most enjoyed the social component of the program.  Almost all participants cited increased strength, stamina, and energy as well as increased motivation to get out and walk more often and for longer periods of time.

The wrap-up potluck also included awesome prize drawings.  Grant funds provided exciting giveaways such as trekking poles and gift cards to sporting goods stores as well as to the new Food Roots Farm to Table storefront in downtown Tillamook.  Additionally, several local restaurants and organizations donated incentive prizes which were given out at random each month.  Special thanks to our generous donors: NCRD, Tillamook YMCA, Pelican Brewing, Stimulus Café and Headlands Lodge & Spa, Pacific Restaurant, and Elevate Yoga Studio.

“I especially want to thank our volunteer walking group leaders and partner organizations,” said Jenck.  “They are the ones who really stepped up by literally showing up week after week, motivating and encouraging people to participate. Our leaders included Leigh Ann Hoffhines and Joyce Trogdon from Rinehart Clinic, Nancy Kershaw from OSU Extension, Darcy Fugate from the YMCA, Kevin Clark from the Tillamook County Community Health Centers, Susie Wenrick and Julie Krohn from the Kiawanda Community Center.  They were all amazing and really helped launch the groups.”

Several groups are continuing to meet regularly.  People are welcome to drop in to any group at any time.  Please note some groups are subject to change and may be weather-dependent if there is no indoor option.  Current walking groups include:

Mon/Wed           9:30-10:00 AM                  OSU Extension/Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall*

Mon/Wed/Fri    10:00-10:30 AM                Kiawanda Community Center

TBD**                     TBD**                               Neah-Kah-Nie HS Walking Track

Tue/Thur             12:15-12:45 PM                 Tillamook YMCA (indoor option)

Sat                          9:00-9:30 AM                  Bud’s Trail/Tillamook Junior High

*Indoor option for inclement weather

**The North County walking group plans to continue walking at the Neah-Kah-Nie High School Walking Track, but details have not been finalized.  Contact 800-368-5182, Ext. 111 for updated information.

As with any positive lifestyle change, consistency matters.  Year-round participation in group physical activity is a key protective factor in preventing disease and improving mental and physical health.  It is important to explore activities you enjoy doing and then seek out family, friends or co-workers to join you.  Not only will you be protecting your own health, you will become a positive influence in the lives of others as well.

Visit tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org and click on the Calendar page for ways to get connected for better health in Tillamook County.

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About the Author : Michelle