A really long walk

SKYE-WALKERS MINUS ONE<br> Clockwise from top left: Skye “The P.E. Guy” Dunn, Jessica Sid, Shannon Morten and Casey Sylvester will spend nine months walking the American Discovery Trail to fight the obesity epidemic. They will be joined by Morten’s brother, Christopher.

Clockwise from top left: Skye “The P.E. Guy” Dunn, Jessica Sid, Shannon Morten and Casey Sylvester will spend nine months walking the American Discovery Trail to fight the obesity epidemic. They will be joined by Morten’s brother, Christopher.

Photo By Bryce Benson

Ten thousand steps.

That’s about five miles, and it’s how far adults should walk every day, experts say.

One of those experts, Skye “The P.E. Guy” Dunn, will have to take about 40,000 steps a day if he’s going to finish the cross-country walk he’s planning to take along the American Discovery Trail. He’ll begin his journey in June and end in March 2008.

It’s all one really long publicity stunt, and to be accurate, Dunn won’t just be walking. He’ll also be rollerblading and bicycling in an effort to exemplify healthy lifetime activities that offer a solution to America’s obesity problem.

Really long means at least 5,000 miles. The ADT stretches from Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, to Cape Henlopen State Park, in Delaware, and is the nation’s only non-motorized coast-to-coast trail. It spans 15 states, splitting into northern and southern trails in Denver then meeting again west of Cincinnati before meandering through Washington, D.C., to Delaware.

Dunn is a 31-year-old Chico State University student who is completing his master’s degree in physical education. He says his mission is to stop at schools along the way to speak to students, teachers and parents about the importance of exercise and physical-education reform. By creating awareness and demanding quality physical education at each stop and generating local and national media attention, he hopes to be able to provide pedometers and lesson ideas for every P.E. class.

Essentially, reform is his motivation.

Obesity is a serious problem in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005 every state but four had obesity prevalence rates higher than 20 percent, and 17 states had rates of 25 percent or higher.

For Dunn, the answer is to break away from the traditional rope climb, timed mile, team softball or baseball P.E. class and start teaching healthy lifetime activities in gym classes.

“The easiest way to fight obesity is to start young,” he said. “Students should be active a majority of the time during their P.E. class and should learn activities they will enjoy to continue after their education.”

Many of those activities are individual in nature—biking, rock climbing and running, for example—and can be taught in classes. That’s not to say Dunn’s against team sports. Basketball is a great sport because it can be played anywhere a hoop is set up and doesn’t require a lot of people to play, like football or baseball.

Accompanying him on his journey will be the Skye-Walkers, some of his closest friends: Shannon Morten and her brother, Christopher, and Jessica Sid and Casey Sylvester, several of whom met while they were working at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The support team will rotate legs of the journey traveling with Dunn and driving a yet-to-be-acquired RV with equipment, clothes and food.

They will be one of the few groups to travel the ADT from the West Coast to the East Coast, they said. This presents an added challenge in that instead of hitting all the nice weather, they will be walking through “the hottest parts during the hottest times of the year and the coldest parts during the coldest time of the year.”

To prepare and help organize his adventure, Dunn has teamed up with Chico State professor and friend Catherine Himberg, director of the Center for Advancement of Standards-based Physical Education Reform. Through the university-affiliated nonprofit, Himberg has helped secure needed sponsors such as K2, FitOne and Accusplit, a pedometer manufacturer.

“CASPER is an advocacy organization for quality physical education as an important part of the solution to the obesity problem,” Himberg said.

Along with helping the Skye-Walkers, CASPER has created the REAL teachers’ pledge, in which Responsible Educators Accountable for Learning can pledge on the CASPER Web site to teach Relevant Education for Active Lives. So far, more than 500 teachers from all 50 states have made the pledge. The group’s goal is to have 5,000 by the time Dunn reaches Delaware.

When the teachers sign on, CASPER will start lobbying the parents and administrators who will be needed to support the reforms, Himberg said.

But for now her focus is on teachers and the Skye-Walkers, drumming up support and organizing stops for Dunn at schools across the country.

“West Virginia is very excited,” she said of one of states with the highest rates of obesity—30 percent—the ADT crosses. “This is a problem they’re trying to correct, and the teachers there can’t wait for the guy who walked from San Francisco to come to their schools.”