PARKERSBURG -About 400 people chose to get outside and exercise during their lunch break Wednesday as they participated in the third annual Walk at Lunch event downtown.
"This is my second walk," said Keith Burdette, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce. "I work every day with companies across the state and country and having a healthy workforce is a key component to having strong industry and good jobs in our state."
The event began at noon at Bicentennial Park and ended at the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield headquarters at Seventh and Market streets. The walk took about 30 minutes as the participants moved up Avery Street and down Market Street to the end.
The walk has grown by leaps and bounds since the first local event in Parkersburg in 2010 when about 75 people showed up.
The local walk is sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and the city of Parkersburg. It is part of a national program, National Walk at Lunch Day, developed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association to encourage people to take time during their lunch breaks to walk toward better health.
For many people schedules are built around their workday, so National Walk at Lunch Day is designed to fit into - not compete with - their daily routine. Many employers support National Walk at Lunch Day by encouraging their employees to participate.
The design of the event is simple: An easy way for people to fit exercise into their busy schedules by taking half of their hour lunch break to walk around downtown. By doing this a few times it becomes a daily activity and creates a habit, Starks said.
The annual walking effort is part of the Walking Works program, developed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in partnership with the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The program is to help Americans live healthier lives and reduce unnecessary medical costs due to physical inactivity.
"This is an area where we, as Americans and West Virginians, can make an impact on health costs that don't impact our wallets," Burdette told the crowd.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated the cost to treat illness and chronic disease caused by an inactive lifestyle to be roughly $1,000 for every family each year. According to Forbes Online, this equaled 17 percent, or about $168 billion, of all medical costs in the country.