K-State Research and Extension’s Walk Kansas Program will begin March 18. Locally in Ford County, captain packets are available from the Ford County Extension Office or you can enroll online at www.walkkansasonline.org states Ethel Schneweis, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent for Ford County. Registrations should be completed by March 16.

This year for the first time, participants will learn about the 8 Wonders of Kansas as they log the minutes they’ve walked each week.

The 8 Wonders include such places as the Kansas Cosmosphere, Monument Rock and Castle Rocks, and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills. These places were identified through a contest series organized by the Kansas Sampler Foundation to inspire awareness of the beauty and value in Kansas, and to encourage travel.

Walk Kansas participants don’t actually walk to those places, but as they log the minutes online that they’ve walked in their own neighborhoods, they learn about those iconic sites around Kansas.

"The program is for all fitness levels," said Sharolyn Jackson, state program coordinator in a press release. "Whether you never walk around the block or your idea of a great afternoon is a three-mile hike, this program helps you work toward or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Participants can choose from three challenges – 8 Wonders which is 435 miles or 2.5 hours/week; Cross Country which is 764 miles or 4 hours/week; or Little Balkans to Nicodemus which is 1,200 miles or 6 hours/week.

Registration fee is $8 for the program.

Since the launch of Walk Kansas in 2001, thousands of Kansans have walked millions of miles at almost no cost, but the benefits are huge, Jackson said, adding that study after study has shown that walking and other forms of moderate exercise can cut rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease by at least 40 percent. After eight weeks, many participants say they sleep better and have more energy, endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility.

And it’s not just about walking. Through the eight weeks, participants receive a weekly e-newsletter with tips on healthy eating, strength training, mental and physical well-being and recipes.

The Walk Kansas website has information about converting such activities as swimming, bicycling and dancing to miles, for those who prefer other activities to walking.

The idea is just to get moving and keep moving, Jackson said.

State of Kansas employees can earn four Health Quest credits for participating in the program.

More information is available at www.walkkansas.org or by contacting Schneweis, Ford County Extension, at eschnewe@ksu.edu or stop by the office at 100 Gunsmoke, Dodge City or call 620-227-4542.