Take a walk at lunch and shed a few pounds

On any weekday in the skywalks of downtown Duluth, people can be seen walking for fitness, many in business dress and tennis shoes walking on lunch breaks. Two new fitness programs launched in February will give people a little extra motivation t...

On any weekday in the skywalks of downtown Duluth, people can be seen

walking for fitness, many in business dress and tennis shoes walking on lunch breaks.

Two new fitness programs launched in February will give people a little extra motivation to get out and walk the climate-controlled skywalk system.

The Downtown Skywalk Fitness program called "Take the High Road" is

sponsored by the Greater Downtown Council, St. Luke¹s Hospital and Jubilee


Foods, and supported by Minnesota Power. A health fair kicked off the

program and another will be held in the fall. "I think it really showed that people are interested," said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater

Downtown Council.

"We had been looking at the skywalk system and how to better utilize it," said Stokes. She said they wanted a way to promote better health of the downtown community and get people to travel through the skywalk system.

"We thought it was a perfect fit for the skywalk system," she said about the walking program. People were already using the skywalk to walk for fitness.

"We would get phone calls from people asking do you know how far it is from this place to this place."

The program is based on a walking program started by St. Luke¹s in the 1980s that utilized the skywalk system. All routes start at the escalator at the

Holiday Center, which is the center point because it is the center of the whole system, Stokes said.


"We knew one of the most popular routes is the Northwest Passage to the DECC," Stokes said. This route from the Holiday Center to the DECC makes three-fourths of a mile round trip. Three loops around the DECC Arena adds

another half mile.

Another route was created that goes to city hall because they knew a lot of workers would be walking from there, Stokes said. This route, called the "Mayor¹s Walk" from the Holiday Center to City Hall is half a mile round

trip. "The Beeline" takes walkers from the Holiday Center to the Radisson Hotel and is two-thirds mile round trip and the "Power-Walk" route goes from the

Holiday Center to Minnesota Power and is one-third of a mile round trip. "People can add routes together to extend their mileage," said Stokes. The program was created in part to promote health of downtown employees. "If you have healthier employees there is a more productive work force and less

absenteeism," Stokes said. Another goal is to bring Duluth residents and visitors into the skywalk system and into downtown Duluth businesses. For added motivation, St. Luke¹s Heart Partners has set up a contest.

Participants use a log sheet to add up the miles they walk each day. Once they have reached 100 miles the form is sent to St. Luke¹s to be entered in a drawing for prizes such as Jubilee gift cards and St. Luke¹s Heart Partner

clothing. Karen Lalonde is one of the first to enter the walking contest with 100 miles walked. She works at the Government Services building and walks most days during lunch. Lalonde joined Weight Watchers last year with some co-workers and has lost more than 25 pounds. She credits the lunchtime walking with helping her keep the weight off.


"With the amount I eat I know I would have put it back on without the

walking," said Lalonde. She usually walks to the Holiday Center and to the DECC. "I do feel better and now I can wear my daughter¹s clothes. It¹s just so nice that they have these skywalks that we can walk through," she said.

Lalonde usually walks with Carla Tezak who also works in the Government Services building. "I hate it. She doesn¹t," said Tezak about walking.

"That¹s why she looks the way she does," she said about Lalonde. But the two co-workers continue to walk most days during their lunches, and motivate each other.

"To join with someone else and even to walk with someone else, there is more support that way," said Lalonde.

Incorporating more activity every day is the goal of another program

launched in Duluth at the same time as the walking program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and the American Heart Association unveiled a pilot of its "Do." program that promotes physical activity throughout the community.

Billboards throughout Duluth, signs in the skywalk and even a DTA bus


promote "Do." messages.

The program promotes "grooving your body" in three 10-minute intervals. The focus is on activities people do each day like walking, taking the stairs,

shoveling snow, and doing yard work. The focus is also on fun activities like making snow angels and playing hopscotch.

Blue Cross chose Duluth for the pilot because the northeast quadrant of the state has had the highest cases of cardiovascular disease for unknown reasons, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota press release.

"Do." also stresses the financial and health costs of inactivity and offers the program to combat these costs.

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