Iowa State University\'s Healthiest State Walk is a student-led initiative that promotes physical fitness on the campus and through Iowa communities.
Iowa State University's Healthiest State Walk is a student-led initiative that promotes physical fitness on the campus and through Iowa communities.

Student-led initiative promotes physical fitness to campus, community

More than 200 kinesiology students are helping to promote and coordinate Wednesday’s Iowa State University Healthiest State Walk, a 1-kilometer walk that’s part of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative.

The students are part of the ExerCYse initiative, an outreach program in kinesiology focused on promoting awareness of exercise and physical activity for good health. ExerCYse is committed to the global Exercise is Medicine campaign, which strives to “make exercise a standard part of a global disease prevention,” according to the campaign’s website.

Gregory Welk, an Iowa State kinesiology professor and ExerCYse faculty sponsor, said student “ambassadors” are assisting with promotion, chalking the course, and raising social awareness for the event.

“There’s a lot that goes into the walk that doesn’t fall under anyone’s job description at the university,” Welk said. “By building this ambassador network and our social media platform, we are able to spread the word and work more effectively. Our promotion is primarily through Facebook, Twitter, and our website.”

Iowa State walk part of a statewide effort

Participants of the walk at noon Wednesday can choose one of nine 1-kilometer (.62 mile) routes on the Iowa State campus. The walk is among many happening across Iowa under the state initiative. Join Pamela While, dean of the College of Human Sciences, on the south steps of MacKay for the walk. 

The Healthiest State Initiative was launched in 2011 as a platform to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. The state ranks ninth in the country today, according to the initiative’s website. White is part of the advisory board for the initiative.

The Healthiest State Walk is in its third year and has had an estimated 300,000 participants across the state in both previous years. It is intended to raise awareness.

“Our real goal would be not to have a single-day walk but to build awareness about the importance of daily walking,” Welk said. “If our ExerCYse ambassadors could keep up the role, they could support walking groups on campus over time.”

Liz Cox, project manager of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, said the walk is also an opportunity to celebrate the success of Iowa rising from 19th, in 2011, to ninth healthiest in the country. Organizers hope that participation in this week’s walk surpasses the 300,000 statewide participants from previous walks.

“Research shows that we are influenced by those around us,” Cox said. “That influence can be positive or negative. One 15-minute walk with with five or 10 of your friends can, and often does, become the impetus for groups who support one another’s wellness journey.”

Cox said the walk aims to connect those who want to take steps towards a healthier life.

“While walking .62 of a mile isn’t very far, it represents a personal dedication to making healthy choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities,” she said.

Outreach will extend beyond the walk

Welk said ExerCYse hopes to extend its activities beyond campus. The group will be teaming with the Healthiest Ames Initiative to spread awareness throughout the city and Story County. Welk said students also plan to provide community presentations, host school assemblies and plan community events such as 5k runs and an Amazing Race competition.

“Ames and Story County have a resource of Iowa State students available to be able to assist in local programming,” Welk said. “One of my passions is to build opportunities for students to serve their local communities.”

ExerCYse recently applied for the “ActiveU” award sponsored by the Midwest chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. The award will recognize the campus that has the most dynamic and engaged campus initiative.

exercyse-group_0“We think a couple advantages we have is we built ‘Cy’ into our name and we have innovative ideas,” Welk said. “The ambassador program is unique and it helps us sustain our program over time.”

ExerCYse has also implemented TrekDesks in several buildings across campus. These treadmill desks allow a person to walk and work simultaneously.

“It gives people some awareness like, ‘Wow, I should be sitting less and standing more,’” Welk said. “That’s a key issue in our field now. It’s not just about exercise, but also avoiding sedentary time.”

Iowa State sponsor of another health initiative

Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach are also sponsors of another health initiative called Live Healthy Iowa, a program of the Iowa Sports Foundation.

That initiative is challenging families across the state to improve their nutrition and become more physically fit with the Healthy Families Challenge. The six-week challenge, which started Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 1, aims to give families the tools they need to become more physically fit. Completing certain challenges as a family will result in awards that range from a $5 Subway gift card, to entering drawings for larger prizes.

“My role was to create all of the PowerPoint lessons in addition to the weekly challenges,” said Lindsay MacNab, a graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition. “I also choose supplemental educational materials that were provided in each family’s registration packet and chose each week’s featured resource and healthy recipe (from the ISUEO website, Spend Smart, Eat Smart).”

The Healthy Families Challenge focuses on family togetherness, improving nutrition and increasing phsycial activity participation. MacNab said she’s working on the challenge for her honors project. The data she is collecting will be analyzed once the challenge is over.

KEY CONTACTS:

Gregory Welk, professor, Department of Kinesiology, 515-294-3583, gwelk@iastate.edu

Liz Cox, project manager, Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, 515-267-2928, lcox@hy-vee.com

Lindsay MacNab, graduate research assistant, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 515-294-3011, lmacnab@iastate.edu 

Matthew Leimkuehler, graduate assistant, College of Human Sciences, 515-294-9424, hswriter@iastate.edu


  • Quick Look

    ExerCYse, a group of more than 200 students in kinesiology, aims to promote physical fitness throughout the campus and community. The group is working on promoting this week’s Iowa State’s Healthiest State Walk.


  • “Our real goal would be not to have a single-day walk but to build awareness about the importance of daily walking. If our ExerCYse ambassadors could keep up the role, they could support walking groups on campus over time.”

    Gregory Welk


  • Join In

    Join Iowa State's Healthiest State Walk with Pam White, dean of the College of Human Sciences, on the south steps of MacKay Hall at noon on Wednesday, October 9.