The Penn State Extension is urging people to become more active and eat healthier this spring.

The organization’s Everybody Walk Across Pennsylvania program led by instructors Stacy Reed and Laurie Weinreb-Welsh aims to help participants develop and maintain better exercise and eating habits.

The virtual, eight-week program will run from April 5 through May 24. While individuals are welcome to participate on their own, the program is primarily geared toward groups of up to five. Each team member is encouraged to walk 10 miles per week, but there is no minimum requirement.

Participants may also substitute various physical activities for walking by using the organization’s exercise conversion chart.

To adhere with federal, state and local guidelines, members of a team who don’t live in the same household should consider calling each other to connect during the walks.

Team members may choose their own routes and will receive weekly emails featuring healthy recipes, motivational messages and walking tips.

Organizers of the program believe staying mentally and physically well is critically important amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Kern, executive director of the Countryside Conservancy, agrees and noticed an influx of walkers over the past year.

“The increase in usage was about 150% to 200% last year,” he said. “We have trail counters and the numbers were astonishing.”

Kern added a lot of people commenting on the organization’s Facebook page or sending in donations have noted how the trail has helped them keep their sanity and he expects use to remain high.

“I think it’s going to continue into the upcoming spring,” he said.

He has already seen some walkers and expects the number to increase as the weather warms up and days get longer.

“With the time change, people have an extra hour of daylight,” he said. “They can get out, walk around and clear their mind.”

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