Increasing physical activity is a frequent recommendation to improve health and deter chronic illness.

Doing so need not be difficult, said Sharolyn Jackson, who announced March 17-May 11 as the dates for Walk Kansas, 2013, and touted the simplicity and benefits of K-State Research and Extension's low-cost, low-stress fitness challenge.

The program is based on walking and other types of moderate or vigorous activity, and encourages each of six team members to log 150 minutes of activity per week, she said.

The team goal is to compile minutes of physical activity equivalent to walking the 423-mile distance between Kansas' east to west borders during the eight-week program, said Jackson, who is the program's state coordinator.

Knowing that team members are counting on each other to do their part can be an incentive for regular exercise, she said, noting that most of the 18,000 who enroll in Walk Kansas each year meet their goal by adding 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days a week.

For simplicity's sake, she described moderate exercise as "walking, barely able to carry on a conversation, but not sing." In contrast, Jackson described vigorous exercise as "struggling to say a few words before having to stop and catch your breath."

Teams typically include families, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

If not acquainted with others who wish to participate, Jackson recommends checking with the local K-State Research and Extension office and asking to be placed on a team.

There's no need to join a gym or fitness center, she said, as participants often can walk in their neighborhoods or near their workplace.

Jackson said that co-workers often walk during a break or lunch hour, and family and friends report walking after supper as daylight hours extend into the evening.

Most who strive to be more physically active report a greater sense of well-being; more optimistic approach to life; increase in energy; greater ability to manage stress, and more restful sleep, Jackson said. While such benefits can become apparent within weeks of adding 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days a week, she said the long-term benefits also can include reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Many who participate in the program report weight loss, and Jackson noted that participants also are encouraged to log health-promoting fruit and vegetable consumption, eat a greater variety of foods, and try recipes that contribute to health that are featured in weekly Walk Kansas Newsletters.

This year, participants will be encouraged to take breaks from prolonged periods of sitting, and are eligible to earn bonus minutes for doing so.

Additional challenges, including walking (the equivalent of) across the state and back, or walking around the perimeter of the state have been added for many who either are returning to the program or up for a greater challenge.

The Pratt County Walk Kansas Kick-Off Event will be held on Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m. at Lemon Park. The first 30 individuals to complete a mile will receive a free gift.

To register a team, simply contact the Pratt County Extension Office at 672-6121 or email County Extension Agent, Jodi Drake at The cost to participate is $5 per individual. T-shirts are also available for $7 each in Military Green, Iris, or Purple.

More information also is available on the state website:

Walk Kansas

Format: Teams of 6 engaging in 150 minutes of exercise per week

Goal: Walk the equivalent of the width of Kansas

Register: Call the Pratt County Extension office, 672-6121 or email Cost is $5 per individual

Kickoff: March 17, 2 p.m., Lemon Park