March 12, 2009

State officials emphasized the importance of physical activity today as they announced support for Second Sunday, a statewide initiative coordinated by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Second Sunday is an event that encourages all forms of physical activity in the comforts of local environments. It originated in Bogota, Columbia where officials close more than 70 miles of roads to vehicles, opening them to local residents for exercise every Sunday. Several communities in the United States have had similar events, but Kentucky is the first state to have a statewide initiative. This year's event will be Oct. 11.

"For too long, Kentucky has been labeled as one of the unhealthiest states in the country, but now Second Sunday provides the state with an opportunity to become a national model for physical activity by implementing simple, low-cost measures to improve the health of its citizens," said Governor Steve Beshear.

Resolutions of endorsement sponsored by state Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, and state Reps. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, and Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, will be introduced today in both the Kentucky House and Senate.

"It is wonderful when we can use the resources we have to give people in our communities a chance to get more physical activity," Pullin said.

The statewide initiative began last year when UK Cooperative Extension Service family and consumer sciences agents petitioned their local government officials to close a section of a county road to vehicles and open it to residents for physical activity on the second Sunday of October. Local officials responded, and more than 12,000 Kentuckians in 70 counties participated last year. Participation is expected to grow this year with even more counties planning activities.

"County extension agents are mobilizing this effort across the state both to bring attention to a serious issue and at the same time do something tangible about it that everyone and every community can do," said Jimmy Henning, director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

While family and consumer science agents and state and local government officials are leading the initiative, public health departments, YMCA, medical communities, civic groups, parks and recreation groups, school officials and chambers of commerce are also partner agencies in many communities.

Not only does Second Sunday promote physical activity, but an important emphasis is placed on building strong family and community bonds, said Ann Vail, director of UK's School of Human Environmental Sciences and assistant director of family and consumer sciences extension.

            "In family and consumer sciences extension, our goal is to build strong families from a variety of perspectives," she said. "Second Sunday provides opportunities for families to spend quality time together while being physically active and developing a sense of community among participants."

            Diana Doggett, state coordinator for Second Sunday, hopes that having a convenient, safe place for exercise leads to many Kentuckians making positive lifestyle changes.

"Second Sunday presents a compelling message of change from being a state of spectators to one of participants," said Doggett, who is also a family and consumer sciences agent in Fayette County. "Hopefully, it will serve as a first step to improving the physical, environmental and economic health of all Kentuckians."

The Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association also is committed to furthering this initiative and has made it one of their programs of work for this year.

"We often don't get the opportunity to say how much we appreciate the consumer-based educational information we get from the university," said Linda Kaletch, KEHA president. "This is a great way to publicly show our thanks and to encourage our family, friends and community members to become more physically active."

Second Sunday events will vary by county. For more information on area Second Sunday events, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service office.