Alabamians encouraged to get outside for 100 Miles Challenge

By EMILY REED

Special to the Reporter

Individuals throughout Alabama have been challenged to get outside and enjoy the outdoors as part of the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge.

The challenge is a free public program, designed to encourage all Alabamians to walk, run, hike, bike, swim, paddle, ride or roll 100 miles each year, and to enjoy visiting Alabama’s state parks, nature preserves and rivers, according to Brian Rushing, the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development’s project facilitator.

“We encourage all Alabamians to participate, regardless of age or ability, and to go at your own pace,” Rushing said. “The safety and wellness information provided on the website gives some great guidelines for those who may be new to regular physical activity and for those who are not experienced with trail-based recreation.”

Rushing said in 2015, the Alabama Trails Commission and Alabama Obesity Task Force learned of a similar program being promoted through the state of Missouri, which was implemented in 2013.

“The program had been very successful in getting that state’s citizens engaged in physical activity and visiting their outdoor recreation attractions,” Rushing said. “Out of the Alabama Trails Commission and Obesity Task Force, emerged a steering committee that took the Missouri model and adapted it for Alabama. Three other states are pursuing the program using the Missouri model as well.”

The program kicked off in Alabama in early May and is considered “ongoing,” but will refresh each year with a kickoff event.

There is no age limit to participate, but those interested in participating must register at 100alabamamiles.org, where they can earn electronic badges for milestones they reach and places they visit as they log their miles of activity.

“Individuals who register can add children as ‘buddies,’ and can also team up with family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers and create groups to compete with each other or to challenge other teams,” Rushing said. “Engaging in recreational activities with a group is so important to maintaining activity in the long-term, plus, it is just more fun.”

Army veteran, extreme race competitor, motivational speaker and reality television star, Noah Galloway is the celebrity spokesman for the program.

Rushing said there are many known health benefits associated with outdoor recreation.

“Numerous studies that find that outdoor physical activity results can relieve stress, promote relaxation, helps prevent or reduce anxiety and depression and can increase energy,” Rushing said. “Likewise, physical activity lowers your blood pressure, helps you maintain a healthy weight, maintain and strengthen bone and muscle, maintain healthy joints, and reduces your risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions. Unfortunately, Alabama has some major health issues as a state, due in large part to lack of physical activity. However, we also happen to be blessed with many iconic and beautiful recreational destinations that all Alabamians should experience.”

Those interested in participating are asked to share their experiences on social media outlets by using the hashtag 100ALMILES.

For more information about the program or to register, visit 100alabamamiles.org.