Networking key takeaway from recent conference on physical activity

Story by Alex Weiderspiel

— Leaders from around the state met last month with a goal: share knowledge and insights into some of the biggest issues facing the health of West Virginians.
Dr. Eloise Elliott, a WVU professor from the College of Applied Human Sciences, was among several experts who came together at Active West Virginia event that featured Gayle Manchin, House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, and WVU’s Dr. Clay Marsh.
“We really just wanted to create a platform for dialogue, collaboration, and kind of knowledge-sharing among the leaders from all the different population sectors on how they might contribute more to physical activity promotion,” Dr. Elliott said on WKMZ’s “Friday Free for All” program.
Critical conversations included what types of access and barriers to physical activity exist for West Virginians of all ages.
“We have to really think about how we’re contributing to physical activity promotion for everyone,” Dr. Elliott said. “Not just our kids — not just people like us who like to be physically active every day.”
Some of the most heavily discussed ways to improve physical activity rates — and thus improve state health outcomes — included better utilization of the state’s trails, increased emphasis on daily walking, and greater connection between people who study this area of focus.
“Networking is important,” she said. “[Those in attendance] did not realize that there were so many different population sectors and leaders that were doing different things.”
Putting the issues in perspective was critical, according to Dr. Elliott. According to the WV DHHR, only 29 percent of West Virginians get any physical activity outside of work, and more than 5 in 6 West Virginians don’t meet daily physical activity guidelines.
Inactive adults have higher risks for early death, heart disease, and other negative health outcomes. Heart disease is typically the leading killer of men and women in the Mountain State.
Weeks after the event, something Dr. Clay Marsh said particularly stuck with her.
“It was so great to have him start out the symposium with his comments,” she said. “He pretty much put it in perspective in terms of how can we support active living for all to improve the health of West Virginians.”
In fact, she said Marsh relayed a rather shocking data point: people who walk at least 9,000 steps per day typically live about eight years longer.
Elliott said another critical focus is getting kids active at a younger age.
“If they’re not active when they’re in middle school and high school, there’s a good chance that they won’t be when they become adults.”

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