Florida 4-H: Virtual 5K promotes healthy lifestyle among youth, families

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There’s more than one way to complete a 5K, and Florida youth and their families are planning to try them all during the month of March as part of a statewide effort to promote a healthy lifestyle.

To get involved in the Florida 4-H Virtual 5K, participants can run, walk, bike, dance, swim—anything that gets them to 6,500 steps, the equivalent of 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles, said Vanessa Spero-Swingle, a regional specialized 4-H agent.

4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, and serves about 200,000 youth in the state.

Registration fees for the Virtual 5K will support 4-H Healthy Living programs in Florida. United Healthcare, a sponsor of the 5K, is offering scholarships to help more youth and families participate.

Those who sign up online and finish the challenge will receive a medal of recognition for their commitment to an active lifestyle, Spero-Swingle said.

“Healthy living is one of the three main components of 4-H, which also focuses on the sciences and leadership. 4-H members understand that a healthy body and mind are essential to learning and leading, and we hope the Virtual 5K will help more people experience those benefits,” Spero-Swingle said.

Unlike most 5K events, which take place in a central location, this 5K is virtual because people throughout the state can participate by themselves or in groups at their own pace, Spero-Swingle explained.

Andrea Lazzari, a 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County, said about 50 youth and adults participated in a planned day of activities March 3.

“Most of our members were running or walking, but there were also some biking, roller blading, and scootering their way to the finish line,” Lazzari said. “Healthy living activities like this one get our youth and their families excited about living a healthy lifestyle. When these kids and their families get together to participate, that’s even better because they can work to motivate each other. Youth who partake in healthy lifestyle choices now are more likely to be happy, healthy adults.”

The Brevard County event also included a make-your-own healthy trail mix station and a “smoothie bike,” a stationary bike that powers a blender filled with healthy smoothie ingredients.

Both 4-H members and non-members can sign up for the Virtual 5K online.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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