In the five years since the launch of “Get Your Tail on the Trail,” the grassroots community health program offered by St. Luke’s and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor has logged some impressive statistics: over 6,000 participants have collectively walked, hiked, run, biked and paddled more than 3 million miles.
A celebration of the five-year anniversary of the “Get Your Tail on the Trail” program will be held on Saturday morning.
What: “Get Your Tail on the Trail” five-year anniversary celebration
When: Saturday, May 5, from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Where: Hugh Moore Park in Easton
The festivities with feature a short welcome presentation, a dog walk through the park and on the D&L Trail, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new dog park.
Launched in May 2013, “Get Your Tail on the Trail” is a collaboration between St. Luke’s University Health Network and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L) that encourages participants to make outdoor exercise on regional trails a regular part of their healthy lifestyle.
“Every year, we do community health surveys,” explains Ken Szydlow, St. Luke’s Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. “One of the things that used to strike us about the survey results is how overweight people are in the Lehigh Valley.”
Szydlow and Bonnie Coyle, MD, St. Luke’s Chairman of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, considered programs to encourage healthy living and empower the residents of the Lehigh Valley to become healthier. The week they we were having this discussion, they fielded a call from Elissa Garofalo, D&L Executive Director.
“Elissa said that they have this outstanding trail system and when they look at the maps, wherever they have a trail, there's a St. Luke's Hospital nearby,” Szydlow recalls. “The planets had aligned. She asked how we can work together to make our employees more aware of what can be done from a recreational and environmental perspective. We went a step further and jointly came up with the concept of ‘Get Your Tail on the Trail,’ a health and wellness initiative for the entire community.”
Actually, the program went miles of steps further. Participants in “Get Your Tail on the Trail” register for free as an individual or as part of an organization at tailonthetrail.org and log the miles that they walk, run, hike, bike or paddle, or any other continuous activity they participate in for 10 minutes or more. While the program doesn't require participants to exercise exclusively on the nearly continuous 165-mile D&L Trail, it is the centerpiece of the program. The trail stretches from Wilkes-Barre to Bristol, PA.
“Get Your Tail on the Trail” participants are encouraged to meet fitness goals, such as the 165-Mile Challenge that runs each May to November. There are also special events throughout the year, including bike and hike outings, health fairs, history walks and more.
Used by Local Employers in Employee Wellness Programs
Numerous local employers and community organizations currently participate, and can offer additional incentives to group members on top of those offered by the main program. Businesses are encouraged to incorporate “Get Your Tail on the Trail” into their employee wellness programs.
The program has garnered national attention. In 2015, “Get Your Tail on the Trail” was featured in a Washington Post article. That same year, it was honored by American Trails, a national nonprofit organization, with its “Trails for Health Award,” which recognizes a community’s commitment to improving access to trails, and promoting their use and importance for increasing physical activity.
“Our goal is real simple: To get people outside and get them active,” notes Todd Nemura, St. Luke’s Healthy Living Program Coordinator. “We want people to be physically active because it is one of the best ways to prevent chronic disease.”
Nemura says the program is purposefully simple. “If fitness is complicated, people won’t do it,” he says. “We make it simple because we want to eliminate the barriers.”
Szydlow says that one of the main goals going forward is to be more rigorous with the data the program collects to measure its impact on the health of its participants. Everyone who registers for “Get Your Tail on the Trail” is asked to voluntarily fill out a healthy living survey. Then, every time one of the challenges begins – such as the 165-Mile Challenge – participants are asked to take the survey again to assess their progress.
“There’s a good deal of data that show that if you exercise 150 minutes a week, you’re going to have better health outcomes overall,” Nemura adds.
“Now, we want to see the impact of this program on other healthy living measures. Over the next couple years, we expect to have enough data from participants that we can measure the impact the program is having from a group perspective. Anecdotally, individuals have told us and posted stories on social media about the difference ‘Get Your Tail on the Trail’ has made in their lives.”
Nemura explains that one of the reasons St. Luke’s partnered with D&L is that exercising outdoors has proven to be healthier than exercising indoors.
“Whether it's the sunshine, fresh air, varied terrain, or social connectedness because you are more likely to be in a group, the benefits of outdoor exercise are backed by research,” he notes. “And we have this fantastic resource right in our backyard – the D&L Trail – so all of our events and promotions of the program, also promote the trail.”
Other Benefits to Using Trail System
“Each section of the D&L Trail has a history to it,” Szydlow says. “For example, the stretch from Lehigh Canal Park to Forks of the Delaware takes you along the Lehigh River behind SteelStacks. You see the history of the region that is so incredibly tied to the canal and the rail systems. As you travel the corridor, you're not just seeing the history of the growth of the Lehigh Valley, you're also seeing the history of the growth of our country.”
According to Garofalo, “The program helped residents understand they have a world-class trail system in their backyard right from the start. The D&L Trail is like having a fully accessible, no-cost gym close to home and work. Plus, it celebrates the region’s role in American history.”
In its first five years, “Get Your Tail on the Trail” has done a remarkable job of elevating outdoor exercise as a vehicle for the residents of the Lehigh Valley to become healthier.
“We are extremely proud of encouraged by the response to the ‘Get Your Tail on the Trail’ program,” Szydlow says. “We truly are building a healthier community one mile at a time.”
For more information about the “Get Your Tail on the Trail” program, visit tailonthetrail.org or call 610-923-3548 ext. 221.
Sam Kennedy, Corporate Communications Director, 484-526-4134, firstname.lastname@example.org
About St. Luke’sFounded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of 14,000 employees providing services at 10 hospitals and over 315 outpatient sites. With annual net revenue of $1.9 billion, the network’s service area includes 10 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Schuylkill, Bucks, Montgomery, Berks and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the region’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 27 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 211 residents. St. Luke’s is the only health care network in central-eastern Pennsylvania to earn Medicare’s five-star rating (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. Repeatedly, including 2018, St. Luke’s has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital and 50 Top Cardiovascular Program designations from IBM Watson Health (formerly Truven Health Analytics). St. Luke’s, utilizing the EPIC electronic medical record (EMR) system, is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of St. Luke’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.