Nearly 600 walkers came out over four Saturdays this month to walk with Mayor Ruben Pineda in West Chicago.
That's one of several statistics Healthy West Chicago Director Andi Cooper excitedly shared Thursday with about 60 people at Pioneer Elementary School during a celebration to mark World Heart Day and the conclusion of the city's Move With the Mayor competition.
Cooper thanked all the community partners and participants who made the competition possible, and families enjoyed free food, music and raffles in the gym.
"We are very enthused," she said. "You can tell by the diversity of people who are here that it's been a success. When you look at our numbers, we have a high percentage of children participating. People are having a good time."
West Chicago was one of six cities nationwide selected by the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention to host a Move With the Mayor challenge in September.
Residents in West Chicago, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Columbia (South Carolina) and Lorain (Ohio) aimed to walk for 30 minutes per day for the month. The challenge was not a competition between the cities, but instead a way to motivate mayors and residents to get moving.
To encourage people to get active, Pineda met with residents every Saturday morning in September to walk with them for 30 minutes. A total of 592 were in attendance at all four, and the number of children -- 299 -- exceeded the 293 adults who attended. Cooper said West Chicago Elementary District 33 played a big role in getting so many families out on the walks.
"If you invite the children, their families will come. It's been pretty effective to take that approach," she said. "The other cities have been very much focused on the business community, which we are as well, but our focus has really been youth."
Healthy West Chicago also measured how many minutes of physical activity District 33 students were getting through physical education class and recess. They found that students were averaging 132 minutes per week.
While it's a good starting point, that still falls short of the recommended 30 minutes per day. John Kefer, a cardiologist from Northwestern Medicine, gave a short keynote speech at Thursday's event and told attendees they should aim to get between three and five hours of physical activity a week to keep their heart healthy.
"We have a population that does understand that physical activity is important," Cooper said. "We just have to continue to help them make that a priority and make it easy. Our tagline is to 'make the healthy choice the easy choice,' and that's what we're going to continue to do."