Published August 18, 2009
Volume 17, Number 8

Heart Walk Emphasizes Prevention through Fitness

Hacienda companies have another chance to revive friendly rivalries for a good cause with the American Heart Association’s annual Start! Heart Walk, which will take place in Danville on Sunday morning, September 20.

Encouraging physical activity and heart-healthy living, the Start! Heart Walk is the Association’s premiere fundraising event, comprising both a noncompetitive 5K walk and a Wellness Festival featuring music, food, health information, sponsor booths, and a memorial area honoring those touched by heart disease and stroke. Of the seven different Heart Walks taking place in the Bay Area throughout the month of September, two are in the East Bay: in Snow Park in downtown Oakland on Thursday, September 17, at lunchtime, and at Danville Livery and Mercantile the following Sunday. 

The Heart Association is the second-largest funder of research relating to heart disease, behind only the federal government, says Janice Murphy, chair of the board of directors of the Association’s East Bay Division and Vice President-Finance for Kaiser Permanente.  In 2007-08, the association funneled $152 million to research projects, a significant investment in “innovative solutions to a healthy community,” Murphy notes, pointing out that without Heart Association funding, many medical advances would never have occurred. “Eleven of the Association’s early-funded career investigators went on to win the Nobel Prize for their research,” she observes.

The fundraising goal for the Start! East Bay Heart Walk is $950,000. “It would be wonderful if we could hit $1 million this year,” she comments.  Murphy believes that goal is ambitious but not beyond reach, especially if local businesses catch “the competitive bug” and start to form their own walking teams. “Employer sponsorship is really cool because you can see how many folks within the companies are walking.”

Last year Kaiser’s entire East Bay operations fielded some 1,000 walkers. On the Oakland campus Murphy launched a “Battle of the Buildings” and tracked participation to fan the competition, ultimately garnering a participation rate that averaged about 20 percent per building. Volunteer captains vied to build their teams of walkers and collect pledges of financial support. Incentives like a pizza lunch with an executive of the team members’ choice kept spirits high. Last year, Kaiser corporate employees, not including those from the medical center, raised $85,000. “We saw a large increase in the number of walkers, and that’s what we want again this year.”

The walk is “for a good cause and good for you,” especially if you’re a woman, Murphy stresses. “Heart disease is the number-one killer of women, and heart defects are the number one birth defect,” she reports, urging women to “know their numbers”—things like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  “One large study showed that women who exercise reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by 40 percent. Nearly 70 percent of all American women get no regular leisure-time physical activity. Every time I do this walk, I re-commit to my own fitness campaign.”

Complete information about the walk, including materials for forming new teams, updates on existing teams, and making contributions, is available at the group’s web site, www.EastBayHeartWalk.org.


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