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Moving naturally

From left, Mary Gasper and Deb Wiebelhaus walk on the Wild Goose Trail in Juneau with their Walking Moai. In the background, Marianne Zastrow (colored shirt) and Rosalie Engels (black shirt).

Spring is here and despite the occasional cold setback, everyone is itching to open the windows and head outdoors.

Fresh air brings more oxygen into lungs and improves blood pressure, digestion and brain function. There are many ways to get out and move, but walking has the lowest dropout rate of all of them according to the American Heart Association. Research also shows that you are 20 percent more likely to stick with a new behavior if you do it with a buddy. Blue Zones Project wants to help people find a group of people to walk with.

Moai, pronounced moh-eye, is a group of people with a common purpose. Walking Moais walk together at least 30 minutes, once a week, for 10 weeks. Keeping a moderate pace not only ensures they are building cardiovascular strength but it also allows them to connect with the people they are walking with through conversation.

Connecting with others is a key to improving well-being. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, a person needs around six hours of socializing to have a good day. A lack of social connection leaves people vulnerable to depression, anxiety and anti-social behaviors.

Blue Zones Project makes it easier to find people to connect and move with through Walking Moai launch events. At a launch event, community members who are interested in joining a Walking Moai show up at a designated time and location. Whether young, old, fast, slow or if you have children and pets, you are welcome to participate. Those who attend the launch will respond to fun questions that help identify others in the group with shared interests. From there, a group of 5-8 people will form a new Moai.

The newly formed Walking Moai teams are then encouraged to choose a leader and a fun name for the group before setting off on their first walk together. Before departing, a time and location, determined by the group, will be set for the next time to walk. Some groups choose to keep a consistent schedule while others vary from week to week. Moais may choose to explore different parks, natural areas or neighborhoods each week or they may keep a consistent route.

Shirley Kohls from Beaver Dam joined a Walking Moai last spring and said, “Just give it a try. If I hadn’t gone that first morning, I think about the activity and friendship I would have missed.”

Give it a try at an upcoming Blue Zones Project Walking Moai launch event:

  • April 21, 11 a.m., Horicon Public Library
  • April 24, 5:30 p.m., Dodge County Humane Society, Juneau
  • April 25, 6 p.m., Wild Goose Park, Juneau
  • April 28, 9 a.m., The Open Door Coffeehouse, Mayville
  • May 1, 5:30 p.m., Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Beaver Dam

For more information about the events and about Blue Zones Project, visit dodgecounty.bluezonesproject.com, follow it on Facebook call (920) 212-8511 or e-mail bluezonesprojectdodgecounty@sharecare.com

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through improvements to a city’s environment, policies and social networks. Blue Zones Project is brought to Dodge County by Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, in collaboration with Sharecare and Blue Zones. Dodge County is the first Blue Zones Project demonstration site in the state.

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