DOVER -- Whether you walk to lose weight, improve your fitness, or simply to enjoy a warm spring evening, Union Hospital's Community Walking Program wants to count you as a member.'

"On any given day there are hundreds, maybe thousands of local people out there walking," according to Pam Dummermuth, RN, health and wellness coordinator. "Our new Community Walking Program is designed to help people feel connected to other walkers, set and achieve goals, and enjoy some modest rewards along the way."

Dummermuth said the idea for a Community Walking Program began in January when the hospital partnered with New Towne Mall to conduct the "See A Smaller Shadow" walking challenge. More than 300 people signed up in January to each walk a total of 500 minutes by Groundhog Day on Feb. 2.

"Clearly a lot of walkers appreciated the structure, goal setting, and rewards this program provided," Dummermuth said. "Our Community Walking Program begins where that program left off and will continue over the long term to help walkers stick with the program."

Union Hospital has again teamed up with New Towne Mall, which provides the home base for the program's rewards and recognition features. Dummermuth stresses the walking program is a community-wide event for everybody who enjoys walking, in any venue.

"The Community Walking program is designed for people no matter where they walk, whether it's at the mall, at a fitness center or stadium track, on a treadmill or their neighborhood sidewalks and trails," Dummermuth added.

Walkers are asked to keep track of their minutes walked, not miles, so the challenge is equal walkers of all ages and fitness levels.

The Community Walking Program membership sign-up launched at Family Wellness Day at New Towne Mall on Saturday, March 24. Community Health and Wellness nurses will be there to sign up walkers and provide all the information needed to get started in the program. There is no cost to participate and walkers can earn rewards for reaching their walking goals.

"The first walking goal for everybody is 500 total minutes," Dummermuth said. "If you walk every other day for 30 minutes you can reach that goal in a month."

Dummermuth says the program's walking milestones increase from 1,500 minutes, to 3,000 minutes, and finally 6,000 minutes. Tokens of recognition are provided to Community Walking Program members who reach those walking milestones.

"Registering for the walking program also gives you the membership card which will earn you some nice discounts and other benefits from Mall merchants who support the program," Dummermuth added.

Community Walking Program materials may be downloaded from the Union Hospital website: www.unionhospital.org. Registration forms and walking record cards are also available at the program display outside the Mall concourse entrance to Elder Beerman as well as the Mall Office during their regular business hours.

Community Walking Program members are also invited to keep in touch with the program and their fellow walkers on the CWP Facebook page.

Throughout the year, UH Community Health nurses will be at New Towne Mall the third Friday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon to meet with Community Walking Program members, receive walking record cards, enroll new members, and provide recognition gifts.

"Walking is great exercise and can even be fun, especially when you walk with a partner or in a group," Dummermuth said. "Reasonable goals, some motivation, and rewards all contribute to your success, and that's the purpose of the Community Walking Program."