The Evanston Health Department recently completed the successful second year of its Women Out Walking (WOW) program. The number of participants more than doubled this year from 500 women to approximately 1100.

The program’s goal is to encourage women to live healthier, more physically active lifestyles through walking or participation in fun, healthy activities such as yoga, gardening and biking. Participants were offered weekly challenges and prizes as incentives, and were invited to monthly workshops, group walks and healthy cooking demonstrations.

“This year the program garnered greater growth in community partners and corporate support. Additionally, several local employers allowed the City to either offer the program to their employees as part of their wellness initiative or assisted us in the recruitment of participants,” said Evanston Health Department Director Evonda Thomas. “We believe this level of support speaks directly to the great need for this type of information and programming in the community.”

An average step is about 2.5 feet long and there are about 2,000 steps in a mile. The 2010 WOW women accounted for approximately 208 million steps; top performer Debbie O’Connor accounted for over 3 million of them.Throughout this program the City received “success stories” of numerous individuals who lost weight, improved overall physical fitness and reduced stress levels – and now have tools for the future..

 “Thank you for providing this opportunity again. One of my teammates lost 17 pounds and walked 20,000 more steps each week over last year. It was a great way to encourage those of us who need a little kick in the pants to get started,” said participant Chris VanderPal.

“This has been so much fun and, hopefully, lots of us will keep it up. I hope the City continues to offer this program in the future and I thank the City for all the hard work and organization they put into WOW,” said Sandy Fochler, another participant.

“Although educating the community on the health benefits of a more physically active lifestyle was the program’s main focus, one of the greatest program accomplishments was the participant diversity; WOW walkers represent various age groups, races/ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. WOW brings us one step closer to achieving our goal of creating a healthier Evanston,” concluded Health Department Director Thomas.