One, two, three, four…
Step after step. Step after step. Thousands of steps are adding up into millions of steps all in one tiny town across Kachemak Bay.
Despite the odd spring weather, the roads and beaches of Seldovia have had a little extra traffic — not from vehicles, but pedestrians.
In March of this year, the Seldovia Village Tribe, or SVT, launched a nine-week walking challenge. Participants were given free pedometers and asked to log their steps each day.
Nearly 80 people signed up. In Homer, that would be impressive. In a town of 250 people, it was astonishing. SVT has organized walking clubs in the past, but never with so much involvement and motivation.
Although some people have dropped out because of health or unexpected circumstances, a solid 60 are still participating. At the end of each week about 45 have been turning in their total steps. They are then entered into a drawing for a weekly prize.
In just one seven-day block of walking, participants logged two-and-a-half million steps, or about 1,150 miles.
Laurel Hilts is the Prevention Program coordinator for SVT and the person who totals all the steps each week. To ramp the program up a bit, Hilts said that SVT added the weekly drawings to give incentive to participants to turn in their steps.
Gift cards for Amazon, a massage, an acupuncture session and even a set of dumb bells have all been awarded to diligent walkers.
By having weekly contact with participants to find out their steps, Hilts said she is also able to give consistent, positive feedback and encouragement to people.
Although Hilts had started walking on her own about a year ago, by week seven of the program she had increased her walking by an hour a day. “I feel great, I have more energy and I’m losing weight,” she said.
The ages of participants range from 12 to 83, so there is a large variation in the amount of walking people are able to do. Hilts said that SVT doesn’t post total steps for individuals, because they don’t want to make it seem like a competition.
Instead, it is up to individuals to challenge themselves, and Hilts notes that there is value in whatever participants do — whether strolling or power walking.
With a positive response all the way around, Hilts said people are enjoying getting outside more and are in better health.
“When you know other people are doing it, it certainly helps,” she said.
An added sense of community has also grown out of the program, as walkers see each other and pause to chat for a minute. Hilts says that people will stop her on the street and say, “I’m getting my steps in!”
One person, who broke her hip earlier this winter, called Hilts to say she was walking around on her deck to get steps in as part of her recovery.
“I don’t have any participants who are unhappy,” said Hilts.
Seldovia resident Judith Lethin says she was thrilled to learn of the walking challenge, because it was something that anyone in the community could get involved with.
At age 70, the grandmother of nine says good self-care is important to her.
“I just jumped in with two feet,” she said, of joining the challenge. Lethin started out doing about 5,000 steps per day. Now, she is up to about 6,000.
By getting outside to walk, Lethin said that people are reminded that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
“I think it builds quality of life for the whole community,” she said. “I think it’s a really good thing for everybody.”
Lethin has also noticed an increased community interest in other health programs like “Healthy Chatter” — a Friday luncheon centered on a health topic that can be anything from essential oils to sacral cranial massage. On a recent Friday, 26 people (over a tenth of the town’s population) attended.
To get her steps in, Lethin loves to walk around the waterfront. Sometimes she will stop for coffee at the Boardwalk Hotel or Amon’s Coffee House before heading home.
“It’s just a beautiful, beautiful time in Seldovia,” she said. “It’s just making all of us so grateful to be alive.”
As she builds her own steps, Lethin encourages others to start walking.
“You don’t have to be in good health to start,” she says. “You can simply start.” Whether a person begins with two or three steps, or half a block, Lethin says there’s no reason to wait.
“Don’t put it off,” she says. “Just put one foot in front of the other — and just see the difference it makes.”
The official nine-week challenge ends Friday with a special group walk from town to Outside Beach. A second stage of the challenge begins May 4. Walkers will be encouraged to set weekly goals, and also participate in three events: the Fourth of July Salmon Shuffle 5K, the Labor Day Weekend 5K and a special walk of the Homer Spit July 24.
To find out the topic for Friday’s “Healthy Chatter” visit SVT Community Services on Facebook.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
The Seldovia Community Health Fair is this Saturday at the Alaska Tribal Cache building. Blood draws begin at 8 a.m. Top walkers for the nine-week-challenge will be announced at the fair.
Safety Day is Saturday, May 16. There will be a bike rodeo, fire extinguisher and pressure gauge testing and a talk on emergency preparedness.
SVT Health and Wellness in Homer began a 10-week walking challenge April 29. Those interested can still register over the next two weeks. The challenge is open to all ages and abilities of new and current SVT patients. Free pedometers will be given to the first 50 participants, and can be picked up at SVT in Homer or Anchor Point. Prizes will be awarded in July for participation and improvement.
To sign up:
Call Amy Rattenbury at 226-2228, ext. 660.