The Story of Walktober

by Dean Witherspoon

We’ve been huge proponents of walking programs throughout our 20+-year history at HES. We’ve developed half a dozen different campaigns on walking as well as custom products for AARP, Kaiser Permanente, America On the Move, The Red Hat Society, various universities, and others. We’ve written a white paper on the health and economic benefits of walking, created a free tool to map walking routes, and given how-to presentations around the country on the topic.

But of all the walking initiatives we’ve supported over the years, the one I’m most proud of is Walktober. Maybe it’s because our home state of Michigan is so spectacularly brilliant and alive with color in October. Or maybe it’s the smell in the air and sounds of leaves beneath your feet as you walk through the woods or local park. Or it could be the early morning light as it passes through the fog hanging just a few feet from the ground. Or that special late-afternoon sunshine shimmering through the red, orange, and gold leaves, still clinging to branches that will be bare in a few short weeks.

All of these make me want to walk, not run. Because unlike other seasons, fall seems to come and go so quickly that I want to savor it and absorb nature’s handiwork. I want to breathe the cool, crisp air deeply and drink in every last sight, sound, and smell. Though I’d like it to last longer, I also know fall’s brevity is what makes it so special.

So when we set out to design Walktober about a decade ago, our goal was inspiring participants to get outside and really experience autumn. We settled on a color theme, then researched some of the most vivid fall scenes in North America. We gathered stunning photos from professionals and amateurs, wrote captions to give each the context of place, then brought them to participants’ desktops (and now, mobile devices) to stir their imagination and make the program come alive. We created virtual trails in the US, Canada, and across the western hemisphere so participants could experience progress along the way. And we built in a way for participants to share their photos of fabulous fall scenes from coast to coast.

Global Successes

The results have been gratifying… to say the least. Hundreds of organizations with facilities all over the world participate in Walktober. And thousands of participants have told us that it did more than motivate them to get out and walk. Walktober made them appreciate the beauty of their surroundings. It got them out the door and into a better frame of mind.

And with our buddy, team, and social features it looks like we’re going to break through yet again. More than other activities, walking is something just about everyone can share. Whether it’s a powerwalk through the park with a friend or a stroll with your kids to the nearest playground, autumn walks are a treat for the body and the soul.

If you haven’t already, check out the , then sign up for a no-obligation demo today. Let your participants experience fall’s grandeur as they get fit and healthy with Walktober.