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Better health, one step at a time.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

COTTAGE GROVE - Walking from Gold Beach to Astoria seemed a formidable goal when City Recorder Joan Hoehn joined the city's Million Footstep Challenge last April.

But by the time the challenge ended this month, Hoehn had logged more than 3 million footsteps - the equivalent of walking the length of Oregon three times.

She was among 53 Cottage Grove employees, elected officials and residents who took on the project. City County Insurance Services, a self-insurance trust that provides health coverage to many small communities, issued the challenge to encourage better health and combat rising health insurance claims.

Hoehn's 3,099,562 steps made her the local program's winning walker - though Public Works Director Bob Sisson, retiree and community volunteer Marie Longfellow and City Manager Richard Meyers nipped at her heels. They logged 2,890,330 steps, 2,838,226 steps and 2,767,952 steps, respectively.

Participants didn't actually hoof it up and down Highway 101. They were issued pedometers to measure the ground they covered each day, then encouraged to step up their walking and record each day's footsteps.

A large map at City Hall tracked each participant's symbolic progress from Gold Beach up to Astoria - or up and back. Or, in Hoehn's case, up and back and up again.

Hoehn, long a regular exerciser, said the secret to her first-place finish was recording every step she took.

"I've been wearing that sucker almost 24 hours a day," she said of her pedometer. "It just became habit. I put it on as soon as I put clothes on in the morning.

`And it's amazing how many steps a person can get in just in a normal workday."

Not everyone who registered for the program completed it.

Community Development administrative aide Cindy Blacksmith, for instance, stopped reporting her footsteps "after my grandchildren misplaced the counter."

Still, she said, the challenge was a good nudge to step up her daily walking.

Participants celebrated the end of the program Friday with a noon sack lunch picnic and - what else? - healthy snacks.

"We joked about burning our pedometers in effigy," Meyers added.

"I sort of miss wearing mine," Hoehn said. `But it's also kind of a relief. Some people really hated wearing them. They'd come in and say, `I made my million steps, now here - you can have that thing back! I'm tired of it pinching my fat.' '

Sixteen participants made the 1 million step goal, including City Council members Matt Bjorn and Lindsey Haskell, Meyers said.

"This has been a fun program, and it has been interesting to see how much we actually walk or move around," Meyers said.

"I believe several participants found that with just slight efforts, they were able to increase their steps and actually see results."

CAPTION(S):

Ruby Haskell (left), her husband, Cottage Grove City Councilor Lindsey Haskell, Recorder Joan Hoehn, City Manager Richard Meyers with daughter Emma, 5, and library director Dan Kaye all get in the spirit of the Million Footstep Challenge, which aimed to promote better health. Scott Shepherd, a Cottage Grove police officer, jokes with Councilor Lindsey Haskell on Friday at the challenge party.
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Title Annotation:Health; 53 Cottage Grove residents walk the walk in taking on the Million Footstep Challenge
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 23, 2005
Words:525
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