More than 5,000 area residents will take giant steps for their heart health on Saturday, October 11th, at Shelby Farms during the American Heart Association's Memphis Start! Heart Walk, the signature fund-raising event for the association.
Formerly known as the "Heart Walk," the American Heart Association reinvigorated the walk with the creation of the national Start! initiative, a movement that encourages all Americans and their employers to take up walking as part of their daily routine to live longer, stronger lives. The free motivational and personalized physical activity and wellness plan works for everyone and has a simple focus: Walk more. Eat well. Live longer.
Today, the Start! Heart Walk is an opportunity for people to improve their health by walking while simultaneously raising funds to help fight the number one and number three killers in the country — heart disease and stroke. The walk is designed to create hope, inspire change, and celebrate success with the ultimate goal of creating a year-long culture of physical activity within area businesses and communities.
In its third year as presenting sponsor of the walk, Intermodal Cartage Company, Inc., a 25-year provider of intermodal transportation services, is a shining example of Start! in action. CEO Mark George's commitment to fitness in the workplace isn't focused on one day of the year. With the help of Start!, championing employee health is a year-round priority.
"The Start! program was a perfect fit with our own wellness program," George said. "After learning that three out of every four drivers do not survive their first heart attack, we wanted to create the knowledge that was needed for our employees to know their health status. I was also interested in incorporating more exercise opportunities in the workplace. The Start! program gave us the vehicle to do something about the physical condition of our employees."
With assistance from Start!, Intermodal Cartage began the 300 Club, a wellness program which includes:
• A new three-mile walking trail;
• A reduction in health-care costs — Employees who walk 300 miles in one year are given a $20 deduction in their monthly health insurance rates;
• Smoking cessation program;
• Employee incentives and rewards based on miles walked (free pedometers, tote bags, etc.);
• Vending machines with healthy snacks and free fruit provided weekly in break rooms;
• An internal website used to calculate miles with links to Start! and a variety of health-conscious sites;
• Encouragement and support for employees who take responsibility for their well-being.
To date, more than five employees have reached the 300-mile mark, and more than a dozen are well on their way to reaching the same goal.
"We are proud of the accomplishments of our company and proud to align ourselves with the American Heart Association and the Start! initiative through our participation in the Start! Heart Walk," George said. "I encourage other employers in the Memphis area to strive to make physical activity and wellness a top priority for their employees. Participation in this year's walk is a great opportunity to boost employee morale as we work together toward the same goal — combating the number one and number three killers by raising local, life-saving funds."
The Start! Heart Walk, which has raised almost $600 million for research and education since it was launched in 1994, will take place in about 450 cities this year. American Heart Association-funded research has contributed to many important discoveries such as CPR, life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgery, the heart-lung machine, and surgical techniques to repair heart defects.
"Everyone knows someone affected by cardiovascular diseases like heart disease or stroke," said Gary Shorb, president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare and 2008 Start! Heart Walk Chair. "That's why it's so important for all of us to participate in the Start! Heart Walk and do our part to help save lives."
Although the Start! program is aimed at adults, the Memphis Start! Heart Walk is open to residents of all ages, and families are encouraged to walk together for their heart health. The American Heart Association is dedicated to combating the nation's epidemic of childhood obesity through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and stressing the importance of a heart-healthy diet and at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
"Let today be your day for change, your day for a new journey, and let's celebrate our success together at the Start! Heart Walk," Shorb said.
Registration begins at 8 a.m., and festivities get underway at 8:30 a.m. Walkers will enjoy a wide variety of activities at the Create Hope, Inspire Change, and Celebrate Success villages, including health screenings, a dance contest, healthy food, and much more.
SUBWAY restaurants, Healthy Choice® and AstraZeneca are the national presenting sponsors of Start! The annual success of the Start! Heart Walk is also due in part to sponsor Intermodal Cartage as well as media sponsors The Memphis Flyer, Memphis magazine, Memphis Parent, Memphis Business Quarterly, Action News 5, Comcast Spotlight, and Citadel Memphis Radio Group stations KIM 98.9 FM, KIX 106 FM, 98.1 FM – The MAX, and WRBO 103.5 FM.
Take Action for the People Close to Your Heart
You don't have to be a doctor to save lives. You just have to be willing to deliver a lifesaving message to public officials whenever you can.
Advocates across the country are working to advance public policy on a number of issues that will improve the cardiovascular health of men, women, and children. You can help by learning about the issues the American Heart Association advocates and taking action on the ones that matter most to you and your loved ones. Join us in supporting:
• Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act: Physical education (PE) classes and general physical activities in schools continue to be reduced. PE helps improve kids' health and boosts their academic performance. The AHA advocates at the federal, state, and local levels for quality PE programs in schools. We also support the FIT Kids Act, which would give parents information on the quantity and quality of PE and physical activity afforded during the school day. For more information, visit fitkidsact.org.
• The HEART for Women Act: Legislation is before Congress to improve screening and treatment of heart disease in women. Nearly 30,000 messages have been sent to Capitol Hill in support of this bill, and we must keep the pressure on until it is passed. Visit heartforwomen.org to sign the "Red Dress Paper Doll" petition asking lawmakers to co-sponsor the HEART for Women Act.
• NIH Research Funding: Research is the starting point for all medical progress. The NIH is funding research to explore the factors that threaten the health of our children such as inadequate exercise and poor dietary habits. Results from this research have the potential to shape obesity prevention and intervention strategies. The AHA supports increased federal funding for research that will help the next generation live healthy lives. To support advocacy efforts on a national, state, or local level, join the You're the Cure network at yourethecure.org.