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Walkers trek to 'Key West' and beyond

Over a six-week stretch (Aug. 19 to Sept. 30), 124 participants from more than 23 employers rose to the challenge and "walked" to Key West, Fla. -- virtually that is.

They vowed to make lifestyle changes, with the support of teammates, and to be more active.

JA Counter, HealthPartners and the New Richmond Vitality Initiative invited individuals to sign up, form teams and support each other. The goal of the challenge was to track an average of 10,000 steps a day for six weeks. If each member of a team of four met the "steps" goal, the team would have walked from New York City to Key West in those six weeks by taking a total of 1,680,000 steps.

In the end, more than 20 teams achieved the walking challenge goal.

While the teams kept track of their steps on a "Walk to Key West" website, participants could keep track of their progress from New York, through Washington, D.C., to Charleston, S.C. and Durham, N.C. on their way to Key West.

As an added incentive, the teams that met various step goals throughout the challenge became eligible for three different cash prize drawings.

The three team prize drawing winners went to "Judi and The Three T's," "the Fearless 4," and "i4Motion."

The team that accumulated the most steps was "The Toolies," with a spectacular step count of 3,560,782 steps.

"Hats off (or should that be shoes) to every participant who made the commitment to get active and stay active," said Julie Bauermeister, JA Counter marketing and event coordinator. "You're all champions in our eyes and set a great example on how to step up and get fit."

As a whole, teams enrolled in the challenge took 62,156,804 steps over six weeks. "Together, each member was able to boost energy, reduce stress, lose weight and feel great," Bauermeister said. "While improving health, they had fun along the way, too."

One participant said they went from taking 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day to walking 12,000 to 14,000 a day.

"I used to just count the steps I took during my workday," the participant indicated in a survey. "Then I realized that I'd need to add in quite a few more steps to make it to Key West. I started using my treadmill every morning and am up to 40 minutes a day and 60 minutes on the weekends. I feel good about myself and am more energetic."

"I'm not taking the elevator anymore," another participant noted, "and find that I keep getting up the stairs more quickly and less out of breath."

Representatives with JA Counter assist clients in the areas of employee benefit planning, retirement planning, investment planning, as well as insurance and estate planning.

HealthPartners serves more than one million medical and dental health plan members

nationwide. It is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation providing care, coverage, research and education to improve the health of members, patients and the community.

The New Richmond Vitality Initiative is a long-term effort to improve the health and well-being of the community. They are a grassroots organization of community volunteers that is devoted to making the New Richmond area one of the healthiest places in Wisconsin.