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Patrick Springer, Published January 04 2014

More than 200 'Walk to Waikiki' together

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Sue Jensen is one of more than 200 people who have signed up to collectively walk the equivalent of the distance to Waikiki, Hawaii.

The “Walk to Waikiki” fitness challenge was launched by Lake Region Healthcare here with the goal of getting participants to walk a total of 3,829 miles.

The six-week challenge culminates with a drawing on Feb. 13 to give away two tickets and hotel stays in Waikiki, if the mileage goal is reached.

Participants can also win milestone awards for reaching 25 miles, 50 miles, 75 miles and 100 miles.

The campaign, part of a broader wellness initiative by Lake Region Healthcare, is intended as an incentive for people to follow through on well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions.

“We thought this would be a good way to start off with a good six weeks of activity,” said Katie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Lake Region Healthcare, a health system that includes a hospital, clinic and assisted-living home.

Sue Jensen, an administrative assistant in nearby Underwood, is one of the more than 200 who had signed up by late this week. Her goal is to walk 35 miles with walks of two or three miles.

“If I’m challenged to be active or exercise, I do better,” she said. She finds encouragement in taking part in a community challenge, and is urging her co-workers and Facebook friends to join her.

Because of the bitter cold, Jensen expects to do much of her walking indoors, in the hallways of the school in Underwood, two blocks from her office.

“I’m hoping to see some other friends in the hallways,” she said.

“Walk to Waikiki is part of the Lake Region wellness and preventative care initiative,” Larry Schulz, the health provider’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This is our way to motivate the community and create a healthy support system.”

A recent community health needs assessment by Lake Region found Otter Tail County has an obesity rate of 31 percent, compared to 26 percent for Minnesota and 25 percent for the U.S.

The county’s physical inactivity rate is 25 percent, compared to 19 percent for Minnesota and 21 percent for the U.S.

To improve those rankings, Lake Region also sponsors an annual half marathon/5K/1-mile walk. Participation for the event, which this year will be June 7, grew from 151 in 2008, the first year, to 1,310 last year, Johnson said.

In preparation for that event, Lake Region promotes a “Couch to 5k” training initiative for nine weeks leading up to the run.

So those who got the nudge to get off the couch in January can keep going, Johnson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522