It all began on AARP’s annual Day of Service in September, 2010. That’s when nearly 80 Hesston residents brought cans of food to donate to their local Hesston Resource Center and signed up to participate in AARP’s 10-week walking program. While the program was designed by AARP, it wouldn’t have been possible without the local coordination of activities by Shelby Graber, program director for the Hesston Wellness Center.
It all started when Hesston resident Dwight Roth, who at that time was a professor at Hesston College and has since retired, became a member of the AARP Kansas Diversity Council. After hearing about the 10-week walking program at a Diversity Council meeting, Roth was excited to bring it to his community. And the community embraced it.
AARP members in Hesston and the surrounding area received post cards inviting them to participate in the program and Hesston residents were asked to join as well. Those who signed up received pedometers from AARP Kansas so that they could count their steps each day and record them. Walkers were also asked to attend weekly touch-point meetings led by Graber or other Wellness Center staff members, to learn more about physical fitness, nutrition and other health-related topics.
The program also provided participants an opportunity to connect with other walkers and incentive to walk every day or as often as they could with a goal of walking 10,000 steps each day.
An indoor track at the Wellness Center allowed walkers to keep up their walking even when the weather was bad.
Ten weeks, nearly 23 million steps and 11,405 miles later, 58 of those who originally signed up completed the program feeling healthier and more physically fit than they had in months.
On Nov. 22, a group of walkers got together to celebrate the completion of the program with food, drink, certificates of accomplishment and another walk around the track. Many of those who attended said they planned to continue walking and recording their steps.
“This was by far the most successful AARP-10 week walking program we have had in Kansas in terms of number of participants who completed the program,” said AARP Kansas State Director Maren Turner. “Now that they’ve made it a habit to walk regularly, we hope they will continue walking to good health.