If you are in and around the Idaho Capitol this month, you likely will see many members of the Idaho Legislature out walking.
More than half of the legislature is participating in the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health’s Steps for Schools walking challenge this month. The challenge has three distinct benefits: It provides funds to Idaho schools, positively impacts our own health, and it serves as a reminder to the community that walking and getting exercise is important.
Here is how the challenge works: If we walk an average of 5,000 steps a day during February, we earn $500 for a school or school district of our choice. The school can use those funds for equipment and programming that encourages children to be active. If we increase our steps to 10,000 a day, the prize jumps to $1,000!
Schools and districts have used this money to replace old playground equipment or to purchase new gear that encourages kids to be active and play. Last year, we earned more than $40,000 for Idaho schools. We are hoping to increase that amount in 2021.
The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is a private, nonprofit organization that addresses root causes to health issues. A lack of exercise or physical activity is linked to many chronic health conditions that plague many Idahoans. This challenge can help us understand some of the obstacles that prevent healthy behaviors and reinforce to us that healthy choices are not necessarily the easiest ones.
We have learned that children’s physical activity levels are linked to academic performance, decreased behavior issues and improved social development. That is motivation to keep walking and to encourage our youth to get their exercise.
For each of the 64 participants, walking benefits our mental and physical health. The legislative session involves a lot of sitting, so taking time to walk can give our energy levels a boost and provide a mental break from the session. Many of us will take the stairs instead of the elevator, schedule time for a walk at lunch and maybe even park a little farther away from the Capitol to get in extra steps each day.
Earning money for Idaho schools and improving our health is motivation for us to keep moving, but there is another reason that a record number of legislators are participating this year. We want to encourage our constituents to follow our lead and be active.
Members of the legislature are community representatives of our districts, which requires us to think, talk about and act on important issues that impact all Idahoans. The Steps for Schools walking challenge is a reminder of the importance of being physically active.
Walking is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. You can walk anywhere, see sites around your community, beautiful Idaho landscapes, and it’s free.
I wish good luck to my fellow legislators participating in the Steps for Schools walking challenge. Let’s hit those step goals and earn money for Idaho schools and encourage everyone to be active.