By Beau Hayhoe
Holt Journal staff writer
More than 2,000 residents in nine local communities covered the equivalent of about 8,000 marathons across an eight-week time period through a competition put on by a state healthcare provider.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Winter Warm-up and Community Challenge encouraged residents to sign up for community teams to chart their physical activity in steps, miles or minutes using an online database.
About 2,396 residents across the nine communities covered 208,862 miles by walking, running or exercising, said Shelley DuFort, a senior community liaison with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Participating communities divided $10,000 in parks and recreation grant money, in addition to competing for the Golden Shoe award.
The city of Lansing took the top prize for most miles logged, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and received a $3,000 grant.
About 409 Lansing residents covered the equivalent of 60,743 miles, according to statistics from the city of Lansing.
Other participating communities included the cities of East Lansing, Grand Ledge, Williamston, St. Johns and Charlotte, as well as Lansing, Delhi and Delta townships.
Charlotte finished second in terms of miles logged, while Delhi Township finished third, followed by East Lansing, Delta Township, St. Johns, Grand Ledge, Lansing Township, and Williamston.
Charlotte received a $2,000 grant for second place, while Delhi Township received $1,000 for third. East Lansing, Delta Township and St. Johns each received $750 and Grand Ledge, Lansing Township and Williamston $500 each.
It was Lansing’s first win in the event’s 3-year history.
“The Winter Warm-Up gets us up and moving every winter,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said in a statement. “We are excited and grateful to Blue Cross Blue Shield (for the honor).”
Lansing’s grant will go toward scholarship opportunities for low-income families to participate in summer camps and park programs, said Kalea Delzenne, a therapeutic recreation coordinator with the city.
What started as an exercise competition between mayors and community leaders about six years ago has evolved into something much bigger, DuFort said.
After being approached by Bernero in 2006 about starting a health and wellness program during the winter, DuFort said it became apparent in 2009 that residents wanted to get involved, as well.
Participation has increased markedly each year, she said, with 41 percent more residents signing up in 2012 compared to 2011.
“That was an amazing effort,” she said. “What we’ve found is that the set-up of this project … has allowed people to get engaged and to get involved at their own comfort zone.”
DuFort said a program that allowed residents to walk at the Lansing Mall, 5132 W. Saginaw Highway, allowed residents to exercise with other like-minded community members.
Participants are healthier as a result, she said.
“Our target is … not the people who are generally training for a marathon,” she said. “It’s the people who’ve kind of fallen off the wagon. We do think that this has motivated people to begin again.”
For some communities, participation continued to increase throughout the program.
Between Feb. 10 and March 10, 25 new residents joined Delhi Township’s team, for a total of 531 registered members.
Team members covered 39,063 miles, said Tricia VanderPloeg, the township’s deputy supervisor.
“We had a lot of residents that did a lot of hard work this year,” she said. “Even though it’s winter, there are still opportunities for you (to exercise).” she said.
With its $1,000 grant, officials are planning to extend the township’s walking trail all the way to the Lansing River Trail, a move that VanderPloeg said should encourage more residents to get physically fit.
“People could literally start in downtown Lansing and walk or ride their bike to Delhi Township,” VanderPloeg said.
Construction on the trail’s extension should start this summer, she said.