Shawn Skillman, a spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield in South Carolina, hopes people will “walk through lunch” instead of work through their lunch hour to improve their health.

Nearly 1,000 people showed up to walk the four laps around the State House at National Walk at Lunch Day.

Barbara and Richard Walkers have been faithful attendants of Walk at Lunch Day for the 11 years. When they are not walking, they get their exercise from square dancing, which they started as a date night in 1982.

Tonna Okei is the chairman of an African community organization of Columbia. He believes events like the Walk at Lunch Day are great for encouraging unity in the Columbia community.

Columbia put its foot forward on April 26 for National Walk at Lunch Day.

Nearly  1,000 people showed up during their lunch hour to walk the four laps around the State House, the distance of a mile. Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina partnered with local businesses to bring about the 11th National Walk at Lunch Day, an event meant to encourage a healthier life style.

“You hear people saying all the time, ‘I’m going to work through lunch.’ Well, Blue Cross Blue Shield wants you to walk through lunch,” said Shawn Skillman, media relations strategist for the health insurance company.

The company encourages people to walk 30 minutes for one day in hope of kickstarting healthy habits.

“You started walking at lunch today, ok, what about Monday of next week? What about Wednesday of next week? What about a month from today?” Skillman said. “As you start doing this more, maybe a month goes by and you realize you walked every day this month and fell great. Thats our goal.”

According to the American Heart Association, walking at least 30 minutes a day has a plethora of health benefits such as:

  • strengthening your heart
  • reducing the risk of certain diseases like asthma, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers.
  • helps maintain ideal weight
  • prevents dementia
  • increases energy level
  • helps fight depression

Participants were also quick to point out that health benefits weren’t the only reason they wanted to  join in the walk.

Barbara and Richard Walker have been attending Walk at Lunch since it first started 11 years ago.

“I enjoy walking. I need the exercise and I enjoy it very much,” Richard Walker said. “Plus we see friends around every year.”

Walking also encourages a sense of community.

“When we walk together we can live together,” said Tonna Okei. Okei is the chairman of the South Carolina Organization of African Unity, a group that helps aid the integration of African migrants into American society and also helps African Americans connect with their heritage.

“Everyone gathered here of all faiths, religions, class. This is what we want to see here in South Carolina.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield companies across the nation hosted Walk at Lunch Day in different states.