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State Stix

Let's walk

'"Tis the best of humanity that comes out to walk." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who's in shape?

If you believe what you read, you might think all Americans have adopted a health-and-fitness lifestyle. But many midwestern and middle-aged adults shun health foods and fitness activities. According to a nationwide study of consumer behavior by county, participation in jogging, aerobics and health clubs is concentrated among young adults living in large coastal cities. While other segments of the population also incorporate elements of the health-and-fitness trend into their lifestyles, they are not as enthusiastic about it as young, urban coastal residents.

Source: American Demographics, December 1989.

Working out in Illinois counties

Compared with the nationwide average in 1988, the percentage of adults who engaged in fitness activities such as jogging, aerobics or health club workouts in Illinois counties were as follows:

Above the national average Champaign, DeKalb, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, McLean, Stephenson, Will.

Comparable to the national average Boone, Coles, Cook, Jackson, McDonough, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon, Tazewell.

Below the national average the other 84 counties in Illinois.

Source: Same as above.

Getting back to basics poetically

One of the most basic forms of exercise and physical fitness is that which is man's fundamental mode of transportation walking. In the summer of 1912, 33-year-old Vachel Lindsay set out from Springfield the "city of my discontent" for a walking tour of the West. During this he wrote, "In the blue grass by the side of the road. Hot sun. Cool wind. Rabbits in the distance. Bumblebees near." Lindsay was refreshed and inspired by this basic means of exercise, and more people than ever before are taking his lead and enjoying the art of walking.

Source: Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty, Vachel Lindsay.

What's to gain?

Walking has been shown to improve muscle development, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity. However as a young British Army sergeant said after having walked from San Fransisco to New York, "Feet are the most important thing in the world. It doesn't matter how fit you are or how strong. If you haven't got a good pair of feet you haven't got a thing." Each human foot has 26 bones linked by 33 joints and tied together with 200 ligaments.

Source: The Saturday Evening Post, December 1988.

Where can we walk?

Illinoisans should have no trouble finding a place to walk since the state encompasses 55,947 square miles (or 56,645 square miles, according to the World Book Encyclopedia, or 55,646 square miles, according to the bulletin board of the most avid walker on staff).

Illinois is 385 miles long from north to south and about 218 miles wide. Walking is an activity that can be done anywhere in the country, the city and even in place. The Illinois Department of Conservation and the U.S. Forest Service both own and administer large acreages of land that offer many trails for walkers. The Department of Conservation owns and administers approximately 100 recreation sites in the state covering over 155,000 acres. These include both state parks and conservation areas. The U.S. Forest Service owns and administers recreation sites in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest covers over 260,000 acres.

Source: Illinois Hiking and Backpacking Trails.

And in the city

The sidewalks of a big-city downtown constitute its most efficient mass transit system, capable of handling nearly four times as many people as can move aboard motorized vehicles on the same streets. A census of workday walkers found that Chicago's Madison Street bridge leading to the Northwestern Station between 5 and 5:15 p.m. carried the equivalent of 8,400 people an hour. Overall, an estimated 900,000 trips are made on foot in the greater Loop every workday.

Source: Chicago Enterprise, October 1989.

How far do they walk?

When surveyors from the University of Illinois at Chicago interviewed Loop walkers, more than 9,000 people reported themselves to be embarked on trips at least a mile in length. However, the median trip length was only 900 feet, or about two and a half blocks.

Source: Same as above.

Walk carefully

Twenty Illinois pedestrians were killed in 19 accidents in November 1989. The total number of traffic fatalities for that month was 134, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to the 128 deaths in November 1988. Twenty pedestrians were also killed in traffic accidents in November 1988. The annual average over five-years (1984-1988) shows 21 pedestrians are traffic accident victims in Illinois.

Source: Illinois Department of Transportation.

General funds

The general funds balance at the end December was $127.889 million. The average daily available balance was $267.510 million.

Source: Office of the Comptroller.

Unemployment rate dips

In December the national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 5.3 percent after rising in November to 5.4 percent. Illinois' seasonally adjusted rate dropped to 6.3 percent from 6.8 percent in November.

There were 5.945 million people in the state's labor force in December; 5.568 million people had jobs (18,000 fewer than last month) and 377,000 were unemployed (33,000 fewer).

Year end holiday hiring in retail stores and post office delivery services accounted for December's lower unemployment rate. Even though employment fell by 18,000 from last month, it was a record high for December.

Final unemployment rates in the state's metro areas in October were:

Aurora-Elgin, 5.3 percent.
Bloomington-Normal, 4.3 percent.
Champaign-Urbana-Rantoul, 3.8 percent.
Chicago, 6.2 percent.
Davenport, Rock Island, Moline (Illinois sector), 7.2 percent.
Decatur, 7.6 percent.
Joliet, 6.6 percent.
Kankakee, 7.7 percent.
Lake County, 3.9 percent.
Peoria, 6.2 percent.
Rockford, 6.3 percent.
Springfield, 5.2 percent.
St. Louis (Illinois sector), 6.9 percent.

Source: Department of Employment Security.

Thomas E. morris

8/February 1990/Illinois Issues


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