The Mayor’s Walking Challenge has come a long way since the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health launched it as a pilot program in 2014. That year, 14 Treasure Valley mayors participated.

This month, nearly half of Idaho’s mayors are walking in what has become a rite of fall in our state. The Mayor’s Walking Challenge, now in its ninth year, has steadily grown. Thanks to the efforts of participating mayors over the years, the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health has distributed more than $450,000 to Idaho communities from the challenge.

Courtney Frost is a Senior Program Officer for the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health.

I can’t thank Idaho mayors enough. The excitement and growing momentum of this program puts a huge smile on my face. Judging from the feedback I receive each October from many participating mayors, it’s a challenge they love. This year’s Mayor’s Walking Challenge is our largest with 98 mayors signed up. There are 200 mayors in Idaho, so there is plenty of room to grow! We have mayors from some of our smallest cities to our larger metropolitan cities. The Mayor’s Walking Challenge illustrates our commitment to serve all of Idaho.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Mayor’s Walking Challenge, here’s a quick description:

Mayors register and use a smartphone or activity tracker to count steps taken in October. Mayors earn $500 for their community by averaging 5,000 steps per day or $1,000 for a 10,000-step average.

It’s that simple, but there is more to the challenge than just earning funds that can be used for a variety of programs or projects. For mayors, it’s motivation to get steps in and be active. Walking is one of the best things a person can do for their health, and this challenge promotes health.

Mayors, whether they like it or not, are role models and often the face of their community. If people see the mayor walking, it may encourage them to walk. Many mayors take time to visit elementary schools in their city to talk about the importance of being physically active and walking with the children. Mayors receive a one-time 10,000-step bonus for walking with kids and sending us photos.

Over the years, we’ve had mayors tell us how much they’ve learned about their city by walking. They find out how easy or difficult it is to navigate to places of interest on foot. They find out what it’s like for kids to walk to and from school.

Our team at the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health enjoys the Mayor’s Walking Challenge. We look forward to visiting and walking with some of the mayors throughout the month to learn about their communities. These conversations and meetings help us better understand the assets and challenges we have in our vast, diverse state.

If you see your mayor out walking, join them or thank them for their commitment to promoting healthy communities. That’s really what the Mayor’s Walking Challenge is all about.