“Walk to Iraq” - Community walking program brings people together through physical activity

Published: September 7, 2010

In the summer of 2008, my husband and his combat brigade made the (approximately) 7,400 mile trip to Iraq for a 15 month deployment. In order to foster wellness and help families cope with separation, various programs were established on the home front. One of these programs, called “Walk to Iraq,” was designed to bring families of the brigade together and get physical activity. Families met one Saturday a month to walk the local track with a single goal in mind: walk the total number of miles it takes to get to Iraq and back. Family members were encouraged to exercise throughout each month and contribute those miles as well. After all, 7,400 miles both ways was a lofty goal to meet in 15 months! The program met with much success. Not only did family members in the area get together to support each other and get some exercise, but family members out of state also joined the fun. In addition, the soldiers in Iraq got to watch the progress and brag about their family members’ contributions. The families in the brigade even managed to log all of the miles several months before homecoming!

Physical activity is a great way to bring people in communities together. From local soccer teams to running clubs and walking programs, physical activity fosters social capital and builds communities. At the same time, participants stay fit, have fun and make new friends. Physical activity is a very important part of staying healthy. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, and children should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity each day. Meeting these guidelines and eating healthy, well balanced meals is crucial to prevent overweight and obesity.

Texas Obesity Awareness Week is coming up the second full week in September. According to the legislation, it was established “to raise awareness of the health risks associated with obesity and to encourage Texans to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle”. With the 41st Fires Brigade as an example, and physical activity a crucial factor in the fight against obesity, you may consider getting a walking program together in your community. It’s easy! Set a goal, choose a location, and spread the word. Then keep track of the distance logged. You may even consider putting it on a blog or creating a group on Facebook. You can also find programs online that help you get started and reach your goals (For example: http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu/).

For other ideas on how to support healthy living in your community, click here .

Written by Stephanie Stroever
Graduate Research Assistant