Earlier this month, people across Alberta proved they aren't afraid of the snow and cold and turned out by the thousands to participate in the fifth annual Winter Walk Day.
Actual participant records are still coming in, but Raelene Lauzon, Calgary representative for event co-sponsor SHAPE Alberta, said more than 120,000 people registered for the February 9th event, making it the biggest yet.
“We had an increase of 40,000 walkers from last year, which is great,” she said. “Albertans did tough out the colder weather ... and more people are catching on.”
Winter Walk Day is a provincewide initiative that started in 2007 as a way to encourage more Albertans to stay active outdoors in the winter. Participants pledge to walk outdoors for at least 15 minutes on the day of the event, then submit a log of their activity minutes. Schools, communities and workplaces that log the most activity minutes win prizes, but the point is just to get people moving, Lauzon said.
“(Winter weather) definitely deters people from walking and biking,” she said, adding SHAPE -- which stands for Safe, Healthy, Active People Everywhere -- likes to promote Winter Walk Day because walking is an easy way to get some exercise even in the grip of winter.
“It's better for your body, for the environment, and reduces congestion around schools, workplaces and downtown areas,” she said.
In the past, schools have been the most enthusiastic participants in Winter Walk Day, but increasingly, workplaces, seniors centres and community groups have been taking up the challenge, according to Bev Esslinger, provincial co-ordinator for Winter Walk Day.
“We are so thrilled with the response from Albertans in helping us exceed our goal of 100,000 participants this year,” she said in a press release.
Of course, there are some safety concerns to keep in mind when it comes to winter activity. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur in a matter of minutes on extremely cold days, so SHAPE reminds people to bundle up when heading out.
“You need warm mitts, proper footwear, hats, jackets, and snowpants,” Lauzon said. ”We also tell (people) to leave a little wiggle room in your boots and mitts so you're not so tightly packed that you're cutting off circulation.”