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13,500 Philadelphians join Independence Blue Cross in National Walk @ Lunch DaySM

Walkers from 120 Southeastern Pennsylvania organizations took steps toward healthier lives

Philadelphia, PA – Today, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) hosted nearly 13,500 customers, community members, Philadelphia city employees, and local workforce members in Rittenhouse Square and other Greater Philadelphia locations as they observed National Walk @ Lunch DaySM and took a collective step toward better health. The fifth annual event, which was part of a national program sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, demonstrated how easy it can be to fit regular exercise into even the busiest of schedules.

“At Independence Blue Cross, we strive to lead our community and our industry toward a healthier future,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC president and CEO.  “National Walk @ Lunch Day brings together nearly 13,500 people in our region for fun, inspiration, and exercise while demonstrating that our commitment to community health is alive, well, and on the move.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Betsy Hummel, the president of Friends of Rittenhouse Square; and IBC’s Hilferty addressed the crowd to kick off the event. Philadelphia Phillies mascot the Phillie Phanatic, dance teams, and Zumba instructors were on hand to entertain the crowd and keep the energy flowing as about 2,900 participants walked a one-mile course around the perimeter of Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thousands of others joined at satellite locations organized by employer groups, school districts, and senior centers not within walking distance of Center City. Together, the events drew nearly 13,500 people from nearly 120 organizations at 150 locations throughout the region.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the cost to treat illness and chronic disease caused by inactive lifestyles is nearly $1,000 a year for every family in America. Studies have shown that getting just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as a brisk walk) at least five times a week has significant health benefits, including: lowered risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or type 2 diabetes; controlled weight; reduced stress; and improved muscle, bone, and joint health.

National Walk @ Lunch Day is a component of WalkingWorks®, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association physical activity program designed to help Americans live healthier lives and reduce unnecessary medical costs due to physical inactivity. It attracts tens of thousands of participants through walking events held across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The WalkingWorks program was developed in partnership with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Beyond participation in today’s events, companies nationwide use National Walk @ Lunch Day to kick-start programs that help support their employees’ health and wellness goals throughout the year, which is IBC’s ultimate goal. One such organization is Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), which — as the nation’s largest municipally owned utility — employs more than 1,500 workers.

“We participated in National Walk @ Lunch Day for the first time last year, and it proved to be a very positive experience for our employees,” said Craig E. White, PGW president and CEO. “Not only was the day itself a success, it also gave us a great opportunity to add extra momentum to our new internal wellness program.”

One year later, as PGW prepares for the 2012 National Walk @ Lunch Day event, its L.i.f.e.: Lifestyle Improvement For Employees program offers seasonal walking challenges, a host of wellness classes, and lifestyle support that includes cancer screenings, health fairs, and more. By capitalizing on the excitement generated by the 132 employees who participated in the 2011 National Walk @ Lunch Day event, L.i.f.e. has been able to encourage more than 700 PGW employees to take part in at least one wellness program activity this year. Collectively, the organization has walked more than 1,095 miles since L.i.f.e.’s launch.

“In the last year, our wellness program has led to improved employee engagement and a more robust culture of health, as well as helping to contain our health care costs,” added White. “National Walk @ Lunch Day helped us introduce a series of positive lifestyle options on behalf of our employees.”

To help all of its customers build on the healthy habits that National Walk @ Lunch Day promotes, IBC also offers a pedometer application, which allows users to track their miles, provides information about easy-to-access walking paths, and contains other helpful tips for overall wellness. In addition, IBC has launched a website,, which provides visitors with a series of year-round activities in the region that will bring people together to enjoy our neighborhoods and strengthen the community one step at a time.