Walk Your Way Around Portage County

Our walkable community is poised to respond to the Surgeon General 

Only half of American adults get the amount of physical activity that improves wellbeing (better sleep, mood, thinking, etc.) and health (lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, etc.). That’s why on Sept 9th the US Surgeon General issued Step It Up!, a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities.  The idea is to support communities in making walking or wheelchair rolling safer and more accessible to everyone.  I looked at the action steps recommended by the Surgeon General and they reminded me of our community!  We have so much already in place and there are many movements afoot that promise to make Portage County communities even more walkable.

Where can we walk?  The Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitor Bureau (SPACVB) has a searchable directory of events and trails.  To find trails, click Outdoor Recreation, then Our Land, then search for trails.  You’ll get a listing with info on whether dogs are allowed, if it’s handicap accessible, other activities available along the trail (such as fishing), and links to contact info, website, and a map.

You can also search the SPACVB calendar for walking and hiking events.   Active Portage County has listings too such as the upcoming Moon Walk and events at Standing Rocks park.  Some people like to participate in organized events for social reasons: their physical activity acquires additional purpose and meaning by coming together as a community to support a cause, whether it’s Alzheimer’s awareness, raising money for cancer research, or any number of local organizations such as the Ice Age Trail .  Not only does IAT hold hike-a-thons of various distances to accommodate all fitness and interest levels, but you can also be active by volunteering to maintain the trail so it can continue to be a walking paradise for everyone.  Being active can be more than just about moving; it can be in the service of others and ideas beyond our own personal health.

A lot is offered in town too. The Green Circle trail is accessible to most of the City.  A new Stevens Point walking map available at SPACVB and portagecountycan.org  suggests several routes of about 1 mile that visitors, residents, and employees can use to take a walking break, hold a walking meeting, or fit more walking into what they normally do.

I am further inspired by recent movements that promise to enhance the walkability of our community.  On September 21st the recommendations of the Portage County Bicycle / Pedestrian Plan were adopted into the City of Stevens Point’s own plan.  This enables the City to increase pedestrian safety, invest in more infrastructures (e.g., better sidewalks), more Safe Routes to School programs, greater connectivity and access to the Green Circle Trail, among other things that will make walking easier, safer, more enjoyable for everyone.  Stay informed or get involved: stevenspoint.com/ for minutes and agendas for the City’s Bike/Ped Advisory Committee and other meetings.

Annie Wetter, Chair of the School of Health Promotion & Human Development at UWSP, is President of Portage County Can, a coalition of community businesses, organizations and individuals committed to promoting healthy eating and physical activity in Portage County.

The Modern Day Biker Gang

It’s you and your crew, all in, for the love of the ride.  Feel the wind through your helmet, the sweat on your Spandex and your heart pumping with every pedal. It all starts when the rubber meets the road and you join a group ride!

MSED2.1_15_FLYERIn cities all around the world group rides are becoming more and more prominent.  The concept is simple, meet, ride and enjoy the adventure.  It’s a modern day biker gang that doesn’t include Hogs or Hondas, but Treks and Schwinns.  And is bound by a passion for bicycling.

There is nothing quite like enjoying a self-propelled journey on trails and roads around the city. Group rides are a great way to meet fellow bikers, tour a city and explore beautiful destinations and events along the way.

One unique group ride is happening on Saturday, May 2, 2015 right here in beautiful Portage County.  Meet the other members of the gang at 8:00 a.m. by the Sundial on the UW-Stevens Point campus. Seasoned rider and 2015 Energy Fair presenter, Melissa Haack, will lead the ride.  The round trip 20-mile ride takes you on pleasant terrain consisting of 80% flatland and 20% rolling hills.

The destination—the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)’s headquarters in Custer, WI for the annual Move Some Earth Day volunteer event.  The MREA is offering $10.00 off day and weekend passes to The 26th Energy Fair on June 19-21 to anyone in the group ride biker gang.  Warm up for volunteering with an invigorating ride to the event, volunteer and save on your Energy Fair tickets.  In addition, enjoy a free tasty lunch and dinner before you and your gang depart at 6:00 p.m.

Move Some Earth Day is a fun annual volunteer event that helps prepare the grounds for the 26th Annual Energy Fair. Typical volunteer tasks include landscaping, clearing brush, food preparation, painting picnic tables, preparing the MREA garden, assisting with office work, Energy Fair promotion, and more. Contact Melissa at muhlissa5@gmail.com for information on joining the group ride and visit www.midwestrenew.org/msed for event details.

Get on your bikes and ride!

Kaitlyn Kohl ( kaitlynk[at]midwestrenew[dot]org )

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization. Founded in 1990, the MREA promotes renewable energy and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org.

Healthy Foods, Healthy Teeth and Gums!

With just a quick google search using the key words: fruits, vegetables and dental health you can find resource upon resource explaining the benefits of healthy eating for dental wellness. Many experts agree that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables not only improves your waistline, your energy level, your heart heath, but also your mouth, gums and teeth! It’s easy to point out the many mainstream foods and beverages we know can cause dental harm: anything with a lot of sugar, syrup or acids, i.e. soda, candy, chips, wine etc. The usual culprits that impact our bodies when we think of all other healthy habits also impact our teeth, tongue and gums.

The average person probably only thinks about their dental health twice a day: when they brush in the morning before school or work, and again in the evening before bed. Yet, it makes sense to recognize the direct correlation between what you eat and drink and your level of dental health. Food and beverages first enter your body through your mouth. It is the first point of contact for fuel and refreshment. If what you put in your mouth may not be the best thing to consume for the rest of your body, it’s a good bet it’s not helping your oral health.

Several themes appear in online literature. These recommendations are not outlandish, nor too demanding. The first is to drink water. Staying adequately hydrated will help you resist the urge to snack on unhealthy foods and drinks which will help keep your gums healthy. Second, eating fruits and vegetables, because of their texture and composition, can actually help remove plaque from your teeth. Also, because fruits and vegetables are mostly composed of water, they are not desirable hosts for the type of bacteria that erodes enamel.

None of this advice is new; we do not need to reinvent the health wheel. In fact, we just need to remember these simple guidelines to maintain dental health: drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables regularly and avoid sugary drinks and food.

by Ashley J. Ormson