Program will offer ideas, challenges to encourage healthy habits

Unless it’s raining so hard you can’t use an umbrella or the snow is so deep you can’t walk through it, Stephanie Henderson and her father, David Moody, walk every day.

Four-and-a-half miles every day, that is. And they’ve been doing so together since 1997.

Henderson and Moody are the first recipients of a Healthy Somerset award for their efforts, an initiative the City of Somerset launched this week to encourage residents to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Healthy Somerset, led by Director Kathy Townsend, will offer ideas and create challenges to encourage exercise and healthy habits. The first is a virtual race, the COVID Crushers Challenge, which will encourage residents to walk, run or bike between 1.9 to 19 miles during the next 19 days (May 19-June 6).

Healthy Somerset will also embrace efforts already underway to make the community more walkable, enhance city parks and provide healthy, locally sourced food options to residents.

“When I was elected mayor, I promised to light up Somerset — to celebrate our community’s arts, heritage and culture in ways that would show the world just how special Somerset is,” Mayor Alan Keck said. “But we can also harness those qualities to improve our collective mind, body and spirit.”

Keck said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to promote a healthy community, which drives a healthy economy, educational attainment, increases life expectancy and improves happiness.

“Good physical health is, of course, one way we can combat illnesses like the coronavirus, but this pandemic has illustrated that to have a truly healthy community we must go beyond that,” Keck said. “We want to find ways to combat these illnesses beyond the traditional methods in our healthcare system.”

One of those methods is exercise, which Moody and Henderson find to be helpful not only for their physical health, but also their mental health. The duo finds that walking provides stress relief, increases energy levels and serves as a form of therapy.

“It’s just a great stress reliever,” Henderson said. “It’s just like therapy, getting out to do something that’s healthy but doing it for yourself.”

For more information about the Healthy Somerset initiative or to register for the COVID Crushers Challenge, follow the Healthy Somerset Facebook page, @healthysomerset, or contact Townsend at [email protected].