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Two women walking along path on Konza Prairie

More than 7,000 people participated in the 2020 Walk Kansas program. | Download this photo.

Walk Kansas adapts, more than 7,000 participate in spring program

Organizers tout efforts of local extension agents

May 19, 2020

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Nearly the same day that Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was telling Kansans to stay home due to the looming COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of a popular Kansas State University program were telling them to get out and walk.

The two events merged well since many local health authorities had determined that outdoor exercise was an allowable activity during stay-at-home orders.

“The timing really was kind of miraculous,” said Sharolyn Jackson, coordinator of Walk Kansas, which just completed its 20th year. “We started this year’s program on March 15, and on March 16, we were instructed to start working from home.”

Listen to an interview with Sharolyn Jackson on the radio program, Sound Living with Jeff Wichman

The sudden shift caused many of the planned, face-to-face events normally associated with Walk Kansas to be cancelled, Jackson said.

“But we did know that Walk Kansas wouldn’t be cancelled,” she said. “It was just going to be a little bit different this year.”

More than 7,000 people participated in this year’s program, which wrapped up on May 8. Jackson said that in lieu of face-to-face events, local extension agents offered online courses and shared information in newsletters and other ways.

“Our agents were very resourceful in putting a lot more of those things online and sharing through social media,” she said.

Walk Kansas is an eight-week, team-based program that encourages Kansans to accumulate miles through walking or other physical activity, and -- using a map of Kansas -- monitor their progress past points of interest across the state.

“We base the program on the physical activity guidelines for Americans,” Jackson said, noting that adults are encouraged to do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.

Walking is a highlighted activity, but Jackson notes that any activity that increases the heart rate can qualify for Walk Kansas miles. “Walking is something everyone can do,” she said, “and in the last two months, people have been outside and getting a lot more walking in. That’s been great.”

Aside from physical activity, Jackson said Walk Kansas encourages participants to work on improving their health through dietary and lifestyle changes. She noted that organizers published a weekly newsletter during this year’s program that highlighted traits that make healthy communities.

“We assume that we inherit our good health or our not-so-good health,” Jackson said. “Genes do determine a portion of our overall health quality, but it’s only 20-25%. So the rest of the health quality that we have really is attributed to our lifestyle habits and to the environment in which we live. It’s important for people to know that they have a lot more control over that than they think.”

Tips for healthy living are available on the Walk Kansas website.

At a glance

More than 7,000 people participated in Walk Kansas this spring, as the popular program adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer more online learning.


Walk Kansas

Notable quote

“Our (extension) agents were very resourceful in putting a lot more of those things online and sharing through social media.”

-- Sharolyn Jackson, coordinator, Walk Kansas


Sharolyn Jackson

Written by

Pat Melgares

For more information: 

Walk Kansas Participant Activity Guide


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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the wellbeing of Kansans.
Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.