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Program encourages health and fitness

May 26, 2005|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A state pilot program that encourages residents to make use of local parks and trails to stay fit and healthy kicked off Wednesday in Chambersburg.

Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity, the state Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society partnered with AARP members and elementary schoolchildren to introduce the Keystone Active Zone program.

Attending the noontime event at Chambersburg's Memorial Park were representatives of three local AARP chapters - Falling Spring, Franklin County and Norland - and third- through fifth-graders from nearby Coldbrook Elementary School.

Many of the senior citizens walked for 45 minutes at Norlo Park earlier in the day. They walked with the elementary students through Memorial Park and had lunch together in the pavilion.

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Larry Williamson, deputy secretary for Conservation and Engineering Services, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he wants people to use parks to "run, hike, shoot baskets, hit baseballs, do games and activities, to improve their health while having fun."

Elizabeth Karper, a student at Coldbrook Elementary School, told the group that she learned about eating five fruits and vegetables a day, and that for fitness and health, people should walk 30 minutes almost every day.

Eleanor Pella, a registered dietitian with the Bureau of Chronic Diseases, Pennsylvania Department of Health, encouraged the students and senior citizens to "take advantage of parks and trails and be great, healthy Pennsylvanians."

Fourth-graders Shannon Leary and Lakshmi Srinivas ate lunch together in the pavilion. Students who walk the greatest number of steps get a sneaker charm, Lakshmi said. Collectively, the students have "already walked across America and now we're starting back," Shannon added. Both girls said they also swim at the park in the summer.

AARP members Lois Hager and Jean Panaia, both of Chambersburg, walked with the students through Memorial Park. Hager said she walks about a mile a day for her health. Panaia also walks for fitness, although she has a foot problem and has to pace herself, she said.

Fifth-grader Matthew Rines said he and his classmates all wear pedometers to monitor how much walking they do. The health teacher comes in once a week to see how many steps students have walked.

"We get tokens for various activities, like walking to school for 10 days," he said.

Students also keep health journals.

All Pennsylvania counties are being encouraged to implement the program.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is providing a $50,000 grant to Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity to help support expansion of the program statewide.

Residents may go to www.keystoneactivezone.com, select their county and search for local parks and trails by activities and amenities. Information will include directions, hours of operation and events.

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