New exercise initiative discussed

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL

Several members of a University of Iowa physical activity intervention class gave the Washington City Council an overview of a project designed to help make Washington County a fitter place during the regular Washington City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

The students presented the results of their work that has been progressing to promote walkability and walking participation rates in Washington. The group has begun a mass media campaign called Washington Weekly 150, which encourages Washingtonians to walk 150 minutes per week as a way of increasing physical activity in the city. The Weekly 150 campaign was created through a partnership with the students and Washington County Public Health. The students said that the walking would only take 22 minutes per day.

?Because of our community health needs assessment we completed in 2015, one of the priorities that was selected by the community was obesity, physical activity throughout the life span, and nutrition and food systems,? Washington County Public Health director Danielle Pettit-Majewski, who accompanied the students to the council meeting, said. ?We have formed a coalition, the wellness committee, to focus on those issues and we have had the priveledge to partner with the University of Iowa physical activity intervention class to help Washington with those priorities.?

Last year, a class from the University of Iowa had done a walk-through assessment of Washington to determine usable walking trails. The class compiled the information and determined what was important. The class recommended a policy to maintain sidewalks to allow walkers a good point of travel. There was also discussion of adding bike lanes and making sure sidewalks were wide enough.

The goal is to promote walking in the community. Health benefits of exercise include combating heart disease, several types of cancer, and lowering anxiety.

Student Hugh Ritter said there are many benefits for walking. He encouraged a ?complete streets? policy to promote walking and bicycling in the community.

He also said the class learned that a streets policy is currently being used in Washington, as well as a project to pave part of the Kewash Trail.

A website is being created to promote walking in Washington County. When Mayor Sandra Johnson asked if the city could become an administrator to the site so it could be updated with coming events, she learned the site was not up yet.

?Our community is aware of the need for wellness, and the council just last week set as one of our goals that trails and ADA sidewalk compliance are two of the many strategic goals we have in the near future,? Johnson said. ?We are all like-minded and this is very timely. I think the time is right for the public to receive this information and use this information.?