CEDAR RAPIDS — The message was clear Saturday at New BLUEhemia: encourage Cedar Rapidians to live longer, happier and healthier lives.
The rally celebrated Cedar Rapids becoming a Blues Zones Project demonstration site.
Cedar Rapids, along with Marion, Iowa City, Muscatine, Oskaloosa and Sioux City, were named Blue Zone Project demonstration sites in late January. The Blue Zones Project is part of Gov. Terry Branstad’s Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016.
To help achieve that goal, Project Power 9 board member Marilee Fowler announced a Meet Me at the Market initiative. People are asked to meet at the NewBo City Market between 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays from May 2 to Oct. 31 to walk, run or bike. Routes will be offered. Afterward, participants can enjoy free music from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Rev. Tom Capo, a Blue Zones engagement co-chair, is an avid biker and runner. One of the things he looks forward to with the Blue Zones project, is connecting trails across the area. Capo hopes to bring community members together in all different ways.
He said it’s important to make good eating choices and exercise, but also to have faith, an oftentimes overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle.
Kristy Staker, a Blue Zones engagement co-chair, said becoming a Blue Zones demonstration site means a lot of different things for Cedar Rapids. She said hired staff and experts will help Cedar Rapids become a Blue Zones certified site.
“For example, for restaurants to become certified they would have to take all the salt shakers off the table,” Staker said. “And at schools, it could mean no snacks in the hallway.”
“They’re strict, but for good reasons,” Staker said.
Staker said the city would not have to complete 100 percent of the criteria, but a significant portion for Cedar Rapids to become Blue Zone certified.
Fowler touched base on some of the benefits becoming a Blue Zone could mean for Cedar Rapids. She said people living in a Blue Zone are three times more likely to live to be 100 years old and live an average of 12 years longer.
BLUEhemia participants were given “passports” with 11 activities, ranging from attending a cooking demonstration to trying a free wine sample.
After the announcements, four women grabbed their passports and traveled in a pack from NewBo City Market to CSPS Hall to try their first activity, a 10-minute Zumba lesson. Afterward, the women said it was a lot of fun.
Veronica Weeks, 38, said she noticed a lot of families with children. “It’s nice to see a lot of kids, they could be at home playing video games, but instead they’re here,” Weeks said.
“We’re trying to become healthier, make better life choices, growing and trying new things,” said Christine Rogers, 48, of Cedar Rapids.
Slightly skeptical about what becoming a Blue Zones demonstration site means, she said she’s happy so far with the Meet Me at the Market idea. “It’s good what they’re trying to do,” Rogers said. “Whether or not Cedar Rapids accepts it or not is the question.”