There’s strength in numbers, and Good Shepherd Medical Center is hoping to capitalize on that idea as they encourage community members to join them in a national exercise challenge.

The hospital’s Education Department has created a team for the “Billion Steps Challenge,” an effort by the American Public Health Association to get participants to collectively walk one billion steps. The challenge started at the beginning of 2019, and participants have until April 7 to join the “Hermiston Walks” team.

Jaime Crowell, the hospital’s Community Health Educator, said so far there are 3,000 participants nationwide, which have so far reached 300 million steps. But only five people have signed up for the Hermiston team. The Hermiston team’s goal is to collectively walk 5 million steps by the end of the challenge.

“If you break that down to 10,000 steps a day, that’s only 50 people that need to do that many steps, for 10 days,” Crowell said. “And we have way more than 10 days left.”

But more than reaching the goal, Crowell said the point of the challenge is to get people exercising.

“It’s to show that physical activity can be fun, and a good way to jumpstart physical activity is through competition or doing a challenge,” she said.

She encouraged families to make their own goals, or compete with each other to reach a certain number of steps.

Participants can sign up for the challenge by creating a Movespring account, where they can sync their device to track their steps. They can also manually enter their steps, or enter the distance they walked or ran.

She said although the team is named “Hermiston Walks,” it’s open to anyone in the surrounding areas, too.

In a few months, Crowell said the hospital hopes to debut another tool that they hope will encourage people to walk more — the Northeast Oregon Prescription Trails website. The website, modeled after a program in New Mexico, will have a catalog of local parks and trails, with photos, descriptions of the trails, and things users need to be aware of, like accessibility for wheelchairs.

“Doctors, dentists, even veterinarians can write prescriptions for exercise as part of management of chronic diseases,” Crowell said. “Exercise has been proven to be as effective if not more in prevention of diseases.”

She said that she hopes the tools will help the community shift toward relying on exercise as a sustainable way to improve health.

Crowell said there are other ways people can learn to form healthy habits if they need some extra help. The hospital has free classes, like a physical activity class, and a “jumpstart weight loss through exercise” class.

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