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Western New Yorkers challenged to start walking more come April

Two Western New York institutions are gearing up for a month of walking as winter weather – prayerfully – takes its last breaths until fall.

The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and its community partners have set a goal for participants in related walking programs to reach 50 million collective steps in 2017 – starting with a big push in April.

Meanwhile, the University at Buffalo has urged students and staff to walk four times that many steps next month alone.

Both efforts come on the heels of a 2015 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on walking, and as UB prepares for monthlong programs to promote the work of its School of Public Health and Health Professions.

“Walking helps people stay both physically and mentally healthy,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in his call to make Americans more frequent walkers and American communities more walkable. “It brings business districts to life and can help reduce air pollution.”

The Wellness Institute will support local and national efforts, some tied to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, as well as the Million Hearts and P2 Collaborative walking initiatives.

Last year, institute supported and touted programs in Erie County parks, malls and downtown surpassed a goal of 40 million steps by 1.5 million. Institute staff said Explore Buffalo led the way with 36 million steps toward the goal. Efforts supported by Visit Buffalo Niagara, the City B-Well Program and WNY Refresh also added to the total.

“The Wellness Institute is working strategically to increase physical activity by improving community walkability, bikability and access to trails and parks,” Wellness Institute Executive Director Philip L. Haberstro said. “In 2016, our Walking to Wellness initiative was recognized as a ‘community best practice’ by New York State’s Department of Health. Additionally, our staff member Sarah K. Martin was awarded an America Walks fellowship to strengthen our capability to improve walkability.”

The institute and its partners will lead several walks in the coming months, including:

Delevan Grider Community Center: Walk Monday from 9 to 9:30 a.m.

Mall walks: These come to a close at 9:15 a.m. Friday at Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga. Register at 8:30 a.m. in the Apple Court area. Participants choose between 1- or 2-mile walk.

Reflective Walks at Delaware Park: Held from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. on the first Sunday of the month through November. Walks are 1 to 2 miles and begin and end at Marcy Casino.

National Walk at Lunch Day: April 26.

Downtown walks: First four Wednesdays of May. These may continue in October.

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Walks: Noon Wednesdays starting outside Roswell Park Cancer Institute from May 31–Aug. 30.

Superhero Race & Wellness Walk: 6:30 p.m. June 9, St. George’s Church at Delaware Park. For more info, visit

Park walks: Every Saturday in June.

County Park walks: In September.

Locations and other details have yet to be worked out for all walking events. For more information, read Refresh in the weeks to come or visit Community organizations and area employers who wish to be a part of this countywide Walking to Wellness and Health Improvement Initiative may contact Haberstro or Martin at 851-4052 or by email at


Meanwhile, the public is welcome to participate in the UB Step Challenge next month. Organizers hope participants will reach 200 million steps by the end of April – and iPad Minis, Fitbits, fitness gear and other prizes are potential enticements for those who do.

The second annual challenge aims to promote healthy activity and encourage individuals to live in healthier ways. It is designed to coincide in part with the school’s celebration in recognition of the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week, April 3 to 9. Additional National Public Health Week celebrations will feature special guest speakers, seminars and interactive events. All events are free and open to the public.

Participants can register online at as individuals or part of a team, and will be asked to submit their step totals weekly to help track progress toward the collective 200-million step goal. Social media users are encouraged to post pictures actively contributing to the challenge goal using the hashtag #UBsteps17.

During the inaugural 2016 challenge, more than 1,100 people participated, taking more than 195 million steps and making UB the most active participant among collegiate communities in the American Public Health Association’s 1 Billion Step Challenge.

UB’s Public Health school celebrations will continue throughout April. For more details, visit

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