“Youth Can Walking Challenge” was launched on February 1st to encourage everyone, especially young people, to increase their physical activity by accepting a month-long walking challenge. Eight hundred out of more than a thousand people who signed up for the challenge and are determined to walk around the globe in a month are under the age of 18.
An alarming lack of physical activity during the quarantine:
“Youth Can“ manager Arminas Vareika shares his thoughts: “It is not surprising that once schools switched to the virtual classrooms and non-formal education was also moved online or even cancelled, the physical activity among young people has dramatically decreased. Therefore, it is crucial to search for creative ways to keep young people physically active and help them build life-long healthy habits. In order to keep youth motivated during the entire month, the most active participants receive the prizes provided by Decathlon and every Tuesday everyone is invited to connect via Zoom and share their experiences, insights and discoveries. There is no doubt, to stay motivated and keep walking is more fun with the support of others, even if it is a virtual community”.
Active participation of physical education teachers is outstanding
After the end of Youth Can Walking Challenge first week, the results are impressive – a total of 32 million steps were taken. Although the walking challenge is focused on promoting physical activity among young people, physical education teachers have become the role models by making it to our top ten list. Ingrida Rauličkienė, a Miroslavas high school teacher, accomplished 330,000 steps in a week, with an average of 47,000 steps per day.
Walking challenges are getting more popular in Lithuania
According to the challenge coordinator Benas Mačiulaitis, walking challenges are becoming more and more popular in Lithuania. “You can find a wide variety of choices on the mobile walk app # walk15, such as “home office challenge” or “walk with an English language” just to name a few. Walking challenges are organized nationwide to help schools, universities, different organizations and bigger communities build better habits and walk towards wellness. However, we have noticed that in the regions young people are more hesitant to participate in such activities”, – says coordinator Ben.
Walking is a natural form of movement that benefits one’s overall health and, depending on the pace, helps to either relax, calm down (slow, calm walking), or get more energized (walking fast). With the pace going up, body systems’ efficiency increases. Intensive walking strengthens the heart muscle, blood vessels, nervous system and muscles of the entire body. Meanwhile, walking at a slow pace can provide peace, solitude and time to reflect. Experts say that physical activity is very important to our emotional state. If we are physically active, we tend to be happier. Walking boosts endorphins, which reduce stress hormones, improve mood and self-esteem. Generating positive emotions is crucial during the quarantine as we have limited opportunities to get together with our family members, close friends or colleagues and spend time on favorite hobbies. Therefore, walking can be a great source of positive emotions for everyone.
Meet the oldest participant of the walking challenge
Sixty-five years old Elena Bendinskiene is a physical education teacher from Prienai, who signed up for the challenge because of a great opportunity to gather her neighbors and promote physical activity among local young people. Elena has been working as a physical education teacher for forty-two years. She believes if people remain to be physically inactive during the quarantine, the long-term consequences are inevitable. Every weekend she and her husband enjoy cross-country skiing in the forests. If Elena meets her students on the way, she raises their grade to encourage them to stay physically active. When we invited Elena to say a few encouraging words to her peers and young people, she said: “I will share an idea I have heard during my studies. We should take care of our clothes while they are brand-new and our health- while we are young. I understand that people are tired or busy, but sometimes we have to force ourselves to keep physically active. Last weekend the temperature dropped to fifteen degrees below zero, my husband and I were already hesitant whether it was worth going cross-country skiing in this freezing cold. So we forced ourselves to do it. When we came back, both of us were full of energy and in a great mood. Staying on the coach will not help us to improve our health. At least what we could do to ourselves is go outside, take a breath or go on foot to the store. It could be a great start as well.