Walk family

Bill Maddock, center, stands with his WALK family, which includes Dr. Bill Smith, left, Kevin Wenzel, his wife Trudy, and Cat Benson at Trine University’s Ketner Hall. Brad Stevens is not pictured.

ANGOLA — Shape Up Steuben is challenging the entire community to get healthier in a way that is fun, easy and social.

The 2020 Shape Up Steuben WALK is built around documented long and healthy lives achieved by people in Blue Zones. The term Blue Zone was developed by National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner in his 2008 book, “The Blue Zone,” following in-depth research of communities across the globe where people lived to be 100 years old at a rate much higher than most other societies while maintaining active and disease-free lives. Buettner and his assistants investigated the foods they ate and other aspects of their lifestyles that contributed to their vibrant longevity.

Moderation is the key, said Bill Maddock, a founder and active member of Shape Up Steuben. Tenets of Blue Zones include moving naturally as part of a daily routine, cutting calories, eating plant-based foods, moderate daily alcohol consumption, downshifting away from stress, a circle of close-knit friends, living among others who follow healthy principles, community involvement, putting loved ones first and having a purpose in life beyond just work.

Building on the idea of creating a close-knit group of lifelong friends — called moias in Okinawa, Japan, one of the Blue Zones in the book — Shape Up Steuben has created the WALK program. It stands for We All Love Konnections.

Maddock, a retired Trine University teacher and coach, built his moia with his favorite people and some he’d like to get to know better. They include his wife, Trudy, Dr. Bill Smith, his former student Kevin Wenzel, Cat Benson from Trine and Brad Stevens of Hamilton.

Maddock plans to personally challenge community leaders to make their own moias, creating a snowball effect for community wide healthy habits.

“Anybody can get involved at any point in time,” Maddock said. Everyone in Steuben County is welcomed to create a WALK family and participate. There is no cost and the rules are easy.

The protocol is as follows:

• Walk for one hour four times a week throughout the year and record it on a calendar.

• Choose six people to be in your WALK family.

• Encourage each member of your WALK family to create a WALK family of his or her own.

• Attend three of six Shape Up Steuben WALK Family Reunions.

The family reunion events are:

• Shape Up Steuben’s ninth annual Heart 2 Heart Walk — Sunday, Feb. 16, 2 p.m., Selman Timber Frame Pavilion, Commons Park, Angola

• Trine State Recreation Area, Feather Valley Road, Fremont — Sunday, March 29, 2 p.m.

• YMCA of Steuben County, 500 E. Harcourt Road, Angola — Thursday, May 14, 6 p.m.

• Fish Creek Trail, Hamilton — Tuesday, July 14, 6 p.m.

• Pokagon State Park, Lake James — Sunday, Sept. 14, 2 p.m.

• Commons Park, Angola — Saturday, Nov. 7, 2 p.m.

WALK is more than walking. Making connections is a big part of the program. It helps create a support system for accountability and emotional security.

“A big thing with this is mental health,” said Ryan Sheets, wellness coordinator at Cameron Memorial Community Hospital and president of Shape Up Steuben.

Blue Zone communities don’t thrive just because the people eat right and exercise. Sheets referred to the National Wellness Institute’s six dimensions of wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual.

Shape Up Steuben wants to promote all aspects of healthy living.

“The goal is to be a Blue Zone,” said Sheets.

“For the sake of Steuben County being a healthy place to live,” said Maddock, noting that it could be boon for attracting new residents and businesses and enhancing life for those who already live here.

The first step of WALK addresses personal health, walking for one hour four times a day and making it a year-long habit. The walks can be done with members of one’s WALK family or alone.

Walks can be meditative and help clear the mind of the stresses of day to day life, said Maddock. He has his favorite routes in Angola and extolled the varied trails at Pokagon State Park.

The second part of the WALK protocol addresses making meaningful connections with a small group.

“Your assignment is to define six people to put in your WALK family and commit to going for a one-hour walk with each person in your WALK family six times during the year,” say program details. “The members of your WALK family are the circle of friends and family that you have a strong connection with in this world. Your support of them and their support of you is a bond that is very important.”

For the snowball effect, each member of the WALK family then assembles his or her own family.

The final step is getting involved in the larger walks hosted by Shape Up Steuben, creating a community of wellness minded individuals.

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