May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and today, U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker kicked off the Tennessee Walking Challenge, a “healthy” competition between their staffs to promote physical fitness at home in Tennessee. The senators and their staffs will be wearing pedometers over the next two weeks to measure which office takes the most total steps. The contest, which was announced at the senators’ weekly Tennessee Tuesday breakfast for constituents, was inspired by “Walking Works” Capitol Hill Challenge, an initiative to promote the benefits of walking and a healthier lifestyle sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
“I’m pleased to join Senator Corker in challenging all Tennesseans to walk more, enjoy our great outdoors and to live a healthy lifestyle,” Alexander said. “I’ve always enjoyed walking, hiking and exercising, and I hope our friendly competition will inspire those working on Capitol Hill and Tennesseans across our state to walk and exercise together.”
“Whether I’m running on the National Mall, biking around Chattanooga, or taking a walk with my wife around the neighborhood, the hours I spend exercising are some of my favorite hours each week,” Corker said. “Not only is a healthy lifestyle important to individuals and families, it’s important to the health of our state and country as we work toward solutions to rising health care costs.”
Alexander, known for his 1,000-mile walk across Tennessee in the late 1970s, played basketball at Maryville High School, ran track at Vanderbilt University and makes trips to the gym part of his daily routine. Corker played baseball at the University of Tennessee and is an avid runner and cyclist. He ran the New York Marathon in the early 1990s and has participated in several triathlons.
The Walking Works program promotes the idea that a daily routine of brisk walking leads to weight loss, lower cholesterol, a stronger heart, and a decrease in the likelihood of serious health problems. The program encourages participants to make simple changes in routine like taking stairs instead of an elevator, walking instead of driving to nearby locations, and parking at the back of a parking lot instead of the front. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes a day, on five or more days a week, or 10,000 steps daily, to produce the best, long-term health benefits.
According to statistics from BCBSA, more than 60 percent of American adults do not get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and more than 30 percent are not physically active at all. The Tennessee Department of Health reports that in 2004, more than 64 percent of adult Tennesseans were overweight or obese. Inactivity also contributes to health care costs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the cost to treat illness and chronic disease caused by inactive lifestyles is nearly $1,000 annually for every American family.
Over the next two weeks, Senators Alexander and Corker, and their staffs in Tennessee and Washington, will be taking steps toward better health by making an extra effort to walk and be physically active. The results of the Alexander-Corker Tennessee Walking Challenge will be announced at the May 15 Tennessee Tuesday breakfast in Washington, D.C.