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Community Health Needs Assessment

Waterville Walks!

Release Date: 08/05/2015

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Waterville Walks! is a volunteer supported weekly walking program that helps people of all ages get moving, socially connected, and gaining the health benefits of regular exercise in the Greater Waterville area. The free program kicked off on June 4 at Quarry Road Recreation Area with an enthusiastic group of 25 walkers and many walkers participating every week since. Waterville Walks! is sponsored by Inland Hospital in collaboration with Waterville Parks & Recreation, Healthy Northern Kennebec, Friends of Quarry Road, Central Maine Ski Club, Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, Let's Go! Kennebec, and Waterville Main Street.

Waterville Walks! was developed  based on feedback from the community that the support of a structured walking program would be appreciated, useful, and motivating. It was clear that a walking program could help make a difference in people’s health.

Walking is an obesity fighter
Data from the most recent County Health Rankings shows that in Kennebec County, 31% of adults are obese, and 22% of adults ages 20 and older have no leisure-time physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but many adults find it difficult to achieve that amount. A lack of physical activity leads to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and many other life-threatening illnesses – all of which can be prevented in many cases.

Many social and environmental factors can contribute to why adults are unable or unwilling to be physically active, such as safety, health status, lack of awareness about local places to be active for free, lack of resources for gym membership, transportation, and general cost of living.

Clubs are social networks
There is strong evidence in the County Health Rankings data that community-based social support interventions increase physical activity and physical fitness among adults.  Social support can be an important influence on an individual’s overall wellness. Social networks and relationships in social settings outside the family provide help in coping, managing stress, and changing behaviors, such as increasing physical activity. These networks foster connection to a person’s community and build interpersonal bonds between members.

Walk leaders offer encouragement and safety
A wonderful benefit to the free Waterville Walks! program – besides improving people’s health and quality of life - is that participants receive encouragement and support  from volunteer walk leaders and others in the program. Many also appreciate the safe feeling of walking in a group. “It’s a positive experience because everyone who attends wants to be there – they have an interest in becoming healthier in a low-stress setting,” says Ellen Wells, Inland Hospital’s Community Wellness Team Leader. “And it’s a chance to enjoy the great outdoors right in our downtown and at Quarry Road Recreation Area where there are miles of beautiful walking trails for our community.”

Waterville Walks! meets every Thursday at 5:30pm at the Quarry Road Recreation Area Yurt, from June through October with a variety of enthusiastic volunteer walk leaders from local organizations. There is also a weekly Waterville Walks! group spearheaded by Waterville Main Street that meets every Wednesday at noon in Castonguay Square to enjoy walks around the beautiful downtown.

For more information
To get connected and get active with Waterville Walks! visit inlandhospital.org or join the Waterville Walks! Meetup page at meetup.com/Waterville-Walks. If you’d like to learn how to start your own neighborhood walking group, contact Ellen Wells at Inland Hospital at ewells@emhs.org or 861-3292.



Health benefits of walking are endless
Regular walking has many health benefits. It connects people with their surroundings and community, helps achieve or maintain a healthy weight, helps manage stress and boost people’s spirits, controls blood pressure and increases “good” cholesterol levels, reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, stroke, and osteoporosis, and helps people achieve a deeper, more restful sleep. Walking also helps people to stay strong and active, have more energy and enjoy an enhanced overall sense of well-being.