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The local partnership that created La Porte’s “Fitness Friday” program is expanding the health initiative concept beyond Fridays and across the State of Indiana in a new program called “Step Up Saturdays.” La Porte Mayor Blair Milo, with the support of Indiana University Health, the Indiana Alliance of YMCAs and General Insurance Services, is coordinating with mayors, clerk-treasurers and other local leaders across the state to organize community based walks or runs in a city or town in every county across the state.

“Step Up Saturdays” targets a city or town in the 91 counties beyond La Porte, to invite the public to join Mayor Milo in a free walk or run of a distance up to 5k. Starting in the southern end of the state and working her way north, Mayor Milo is bringing the La Porte’s “Fitness Friday” concept to each county to encourage communities to adopt similar programs that inspire Hoosiers to increase their physical activity. “Fitness Friday” was born of a partnership between the City of La Porte, Indiana University La Porte Hospital and the La Porte County Family YMCA in 2012, and has since expanded to include additional partners including General Insurance Services. The concept invites free participation from the public to join Mayor Milo and/or other community leaders to walk or run any distance up to five kilometers every Friday from April through October. La Porte County Family YMCA Director Cindy Berchem stated, “Fitness Friday and programs like it are successful because they welcome everyone, not just your usual 5k crowd. By removing barriers like timers or set distances, people of every level take advantage of an opportunity to socialize with neighbors or meet new friends while incorporating physical activity into their routines.”

IU Health La Porte Hospital CEO G. Thor Thordarson stated, “La Porte’s ‘Fitness Fridays’ program has been a greater success than any of us could have predicted. It has increased awareness for and participation in healthy activities, plus, it’s had the bonus of fostering a strong sense of community by the participants. Kids and adults of every fitness level love the opportunity to come and enjoy a walk or run where they can meet up with or make new friends while experiencing a sense of community.” General Insurance Services President Craig Menne continued, “We thought if we can expand the reach of the Fitness Friday idea beyond the limits of La Porte, we could encourage a statewide movement that improves, in fact ‘Steps Up’ Hoosiers’ quality of life, healthcare budgets and Indiana’s national health ranking, while growing our respective senses of community.”

In order to reach each county in 2014, Mayor Milo will be spending her Saturdays hosting three 5k events in three different counties from March 1st through mid-October. “It’s a sizeable goal, some might even say a bit crazy, to reach all 91 counties, but I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone else’s big idea that even if you agree with, suddenly becomes your problem. The goal of this project is to encourage, or in some cases enhance, opportunities for citizens to increase their physical activity, not just force another task on already busy community leaders.”

In December 2013, the United Health Foundation ranked Indiana 41st in the country for health due to levels of tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that more than 75% of healthcare spending is due to chronic disease. Most chronic diseases can be prevented through decreased tobacco use, 30 minutes of daily physical activity and a balanced diet.

The schedule is still in a finalization process but will be available at as WIMS 1490 will be broadcasting live prior to each event.
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