Although walkathons are held year-round (mall-walking makes that possible in wintertime), their popularity is most visible from spring to fall. Sometimes, it's hard to go for a weekend drive without encountering one. The American Heart Association's Heart Walk attracts more than one million participants at more than 600 events each year. WalkAmerica, the biggest fund-raiser for the March of Dimes, is held in 1,100 communities annually.
Most events cover relatively short distances, from 2K (1.25 miles) to 5K (3.1 miles), although some are marathons (26.2 miles) and half-marathons (13.1 miles). By collecting pledges from sponsors, walkers raise millions of dollars every year.
Walkathons inspire many of us, at all ages and levels of fitness, to get involved. Helping a good cause encourages us to lace up those sneakers and step out when we might not otherwise make the effort.
"When you walk just for the sake of walking, few people are truly motivated and keep it up," says Werner W.K. Hoeger, Ed.D., FACSM, professor of kinesiology and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, Boise State University. "If you have a goal in mind, then that motivates you and gets you going. This is beautiful."