In the middle of Missouri, you’ll find the town of Mexico, with a population of 11,600. Here, life tends to revolve around cattle, soybeans and high school sports. As a small recreation department consisting of three full-time staff, we have come to understand the importance of solid partnerships and working together for community health.
A few years ago, our department decided to join forces with the Mexico Area YMCA, the Audrain County Health Department, Mexico Senior Services and the SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Audrain to form the Audrain County Health Leadership Team.
With a winter walking program already in place, the leadership team decided it was time to start a summer walking program to benefit the community. The Walk Mexico program sets the goal of walking at least a marathon worth of steps — 26.2 miles — by the end of summer, with incentives along the way from local businesses.
After the first few years, with a decent number of participants, we knew the program needed a boost. We approached the Mexico Public Schools, who were already working with Boone Hospital to bring the Kids On Track walking program to Mexico for school-aged kids. We decided to combine our programs, directing kids ages 0 – 12 to register for Kids on Track, and those ages 13 and up to register for Walk Mexico. Now in our second year of this joint effort, our participant numbers are climbing.
In 2016, more than 2,043 miles were walked in the Walk Mexico program alone, not including the numbers from Kids on Track. If each program participant walked an average fifteen-minute mile, over 500 hours of walking happened, which leads to some outstanding health benefits! In addition to preventing or helping control heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, walking helps people maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, improve balance and coordination, and naturally improves mood – especially when walking with groups of people.
Are you utilizing your community walking trails to promote more than just a stroll through the park? What programs for your trails have you implemented for your community to encourage community wellness? Are you taking advantage of all of your connections, networking and partnerships? Maybe today is the day to start and give your community something worth walking for!
Megan Harrington is the Recreation Supervisor with the City of Mexico Parks and Recreation Department and member of the NRPA Young Professionals Network.