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Start! Walking America: The American Heart Association's National Start! Walking Day Is April 16
Date:4/15/2008

Calls on Americans coast-to-coast to walk for 30 minutes during their workday

DALLAS, April 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- April 16 is the American Heart Association's National Start! Walking Day. The call to action is simple: Americans should fit 30 minutes of walking into their workday.

Studies reveal that American jobs have become more sedentary and that employees are working 164 more hours a year than they did 20 years ago. The Start! movement works with employers and the 142 million Americans in the workplace to create a culture of walking before, during or after work.

"Incorporating walking into your daily routine is one of the easiest changes you can make. You can hop off the bus or subway a stop or two earlier; you can take the stairs at work or park farther away," said American Heart Association President Dr. Daniel Jones. "There are lots of little ways to incorporate a few more steps, which can truly have life-changing results."

Companies across the country are celebrating National Start! Walking Day by hosting fitness rallies, establishing walking routes and encouraging employees to wear walking shoes to work on Wednesday, April 16.

The American Heart Association is partnering with Donny Osmond, who serves as the national spokesperson for National Start! Walking Day and the Start! campaign. In fall 2007, Osmond's father died of heart disease. Since then, Osmond has recommitted to maintaining his physical fitness.

"Good health is a very important component of my life, but with a demanding schedule and a busy family, I know what it's like to be unable to find the time," Osmond said. "That's why this program is so great. Walking is simple and it's free. Most people can find places to walk at work or in their communities. You can literally start making a big improvement on National Start! Walking Day."

Walking has many proven benefits, and walking briskly for 30 minutes a day can lower both bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and high blood pressure. It also has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise, largely because walking is free and easy to do. Studies show that adults may gain as many as two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular, vigorous exercise.

Underscoring the importance of a healthy workforce, sedentary careers can raise the risk for a host of medical problems including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Employers face ever-increasing healthcare costs such as $12.7 billion in annual medical expenses due to obesity alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, several risk factors surrounding coronary heart disease and stroke have been on the rise. Most alarming, the rate of physical inactivity has declined by only 2.5 percent since 1999. Inactivity makes a person 1.5 to 2.4 times more likely to have coronary heart disease. Start! focuses on four key elements to help combat the rising epidemic of inactivity:

1. MyStart! Online, a free, Web-based fitness and nutrition tracker, is the focal point for a walking program that offers constant, measurable personal improvement.

2. The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies recognition program officially recognizes employers who champion the health of their employees and work to create a culture of physical activity in the workplace. To be certified as "Fit-Friendly," companies must implement a majority, if not all, of the wellness areas which include physical activity, nutrition and culture.

3. The Start! Walking Program encourages companies to promote walking at work and recognize and reward employees who move from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle. The program removes the significant barriers of lack of time and place for physical activity for millions of American workers.

4. The Start! Heart Walk, the American Heart Association's premier fund-raiser, helps people improve their health by walking while helping fund the fight against heart disease and stroke. More than 450 Start! Heart Walks are held each year in cities nationwide.

Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY(R) Restaurants, Healthy Choice(R) and AstraZeneca. For more information, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit http://www.heart.org/start. For National Start! Challenger bios, visit http://www.heart.org/startchallenge. All mileage can be logged and recorded on http://www.heart.org/start.

About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, America's No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases claim nearly 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2006-07, the association invested more than $554 million in research, professional and public education, and advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.


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SOURCE American Heart Association
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