The City of Evanston’s Health Department is bringing walking back with Women Out Walking (WOW), a 12-week campaign to highlight the importance of physical activity for women. WOW kicks off with an orientation session from 8 a.m. till noon on March 22 at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., at which walkers will have the opportunity to register for the program and will be provided with tools to assist them throughout the 12 weeks. There will also be exercise classes, workshops, guest speakers and health screenings.

The program runs from March 22 to June 14. Registration is currently open online at www.cityofevanston.org/wowregister, and will be available in person at the kick-off event.

Throughout the campaign, hundreds of women in Evanston will not only be encouraged to walk, but they will also be exposed to a variety of activities that promote health awareness and healthy lifestyles. Teams will walk at their own pace, at self-determined schedules and venues. Additionally, walkers will be encouraged to attend a monthly walk hosted by the Health Department. A complete list of events is available at www.cityofevanston.org/wow.

Studies show that regular physical activity at moderate intensity levels improves health and well-being, reduces stress and decreases the risk for certain diseases. Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial.

Women who participated in WOW often continue walking on their own in groups or alone after the program has ended. Sharon Hyson said she walks regularly, logging as many as 12,000 steps per day – more than the often-recommended 10,000 steps. Robin Harkness said she generally walks after work, to relax and “notice things you wouldn’t notice when you’re driving.”

This particularly tough winter has caused changes in some walking habits. One group temporarily suspended its collegial walks, walking individually – outside in tolerable weather or at a gym – or attending exercise or yoga classes. Individual walkers have found indoor tracks or other indoor spaces to accommodate their walks.

WOW is open to women of all ages and fitness levels. Individual walkers and teams are encouraged to register prior to the March 22 kick-off event, but registration will remain open until the close of the program. The cost of registration is $5.

Information, about sponsoring a participant or providing payment for registration, is available from Jessyca Dudley at 847-866-2965, by emailing jdudley@cityofevanston.org.