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Simple Steps program encourages walking in Dakota County

As the days start to get longer and the weather starts to get warmer, more and more people can be found outside enjoying the fresh air. Dakota County has one way community members can enjoy the outdoors while staying active.

Registration for Dakota County's Simple Steps Walking Program is now open. So far, about 470 participants have registered for the free program, including 50 Hastings residents.

Jill Verchota-Luce, health promotions specialist at Dakota County Public Health, said that the program was started in 2007 with the idea that it takes six weeks to get into a habit. The program, which runs from April 1 to July 31, promotes walking and exercise.

"It's a walking program that's designed to increase the number of people who walk regularly," she said.

The annual program begins every spring, Verchota-Luce said. Last year, more than 750 people registered for the program in Dakota County. An evaluation of the program was conducted after the conclusion of the six weeks. Verchota-Luce said that 61 percent of walkers said they enjoyed the program and 53 percent of walkers noticed stress reduction. Other benefits to the program include increased energy, increased fitness, improved mood and improved health, Verchota-Luce said.

Registered users will be able to log the number of minutes they walk outside from April 1 to July 31. Users who track their minutes at least once per week for the first six weeks will automatically receive a stopwatch. Other prizes will be awarded throughout the program as well. Prizes may include gift cards, books or fitness clothes. For more information about how to be eligible for prizes, visit the Dakota County website.

Walkers may register under the same team name, which will allow them to see what their teammates are logging, Verchota-Luce said. Team can range from 2-12 people. The main idea is just to get people more active and "being active with others, we feel, that increases participation," she said.

Community members may register for the program here. Click on the link and it will walk you through registration. Registered users may log in April 1 and begin tracking their minutes.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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