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In the Bitterroot Valley as the temperature drops winter months bring holiday parties, weather changes and dark evenings and physical activity tends to drop off as well.

Katelyn Andersen, Montana State University Extension Agent for Ravalli County, has a creative and encouraging exercise solution.

“A few years ago, I told myself to not wish my winter away,” Andersen said. “Often, I wished for warmer days to spend at the lake or explore a new trail. My active family incentivized me to learn how to downhill ski and enjoy the thrill of a cold, winter day.”

Andersen knew she wasn’t the only person who needed an incentive to keep active in the winter months and partnered with two MSU College of Nursing students, Andria Spring and Kristen Brown.

Together, with the input and help of community members, they have designed a free winter health incentive program called WINter Wellness that will run Nov. 15 – Feb. 15.

Every time an adult, 18 and older, engages in physical activity, they are eligible for a self-reported entry in program.

This program might sound familiar as Andersen has coordinated other health incentive programs in the valley called Bike, Walk, Roll & Win in Hamilton and Stevensville the last two springs.

“From the longitudinal study and self-reporting from the Bike, Walk, Roll & Win, participants reported an increase in physical activity and an increase in mental health,” reports Andersen, “The number one request from participants was to offer a fall or winter incentive program. We listened.”

WINter Wellness has three dynamic components to support health in Ravalli County this winter.

First is the health incentive program where people can enter their physical activity to win prizes during the holiday and winter months.

Examples of physical activity includes skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, gym classes, yoga, strength training, as well as many other activities. A complete list can be found on a WINter Wellness flyer, on the Ravalli County Extension Facebook page and website, or call the Extension Office at 406-375-6611. Participants must self-report their documentation of activities either online at ravalli.msuextension.org/walking.html or at the Extension Office located at 215 S. 4th St. G, Hamilton.

In addition to better health, businesses and individuals have contributed prizes: 30-Day unlimited yoga pass from Aspen Leaf Yoga; $50 gift card to Chamber businesses from Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce; deluxe cabin for one night from Camp Sula; one cranial sacral therapy session from Cranial Sacral Therapy, LLC - Jody Mohoff, CST-D; Osprey Mutant 28L backpack from Corvallis Physical Therapy; downtown business goodie basket from Hamilton Downtown Association; one hour of personal training from Health by Heidi; essential oil infused winter wellness goodie basket from Healthy Connections; vintage postcard for every participant from Hidden Treasurers; 1/2 hour massage (two winners) from Judy Banks, LMT; four adult ski lift tickets from Lost Trail Ski Area; health goodie basket from New Horizons Physical Therapy; Basin and Range Escalante four-person tent from Ravalli County Federal Credit Union; certificate for a child bike helmet from Ravalli County Public Health Department; event tickets (six winners) to the 2019 RC 5K Mud Run from Ravalli County Weed District; one introductory heart math session from Step Stone - Becki Koon; punch card for five yoga sessions from Tipi Rock Yoga & Massage Therapy; two hours of personal training from Wendy Davis Training; and a one hour sound healing session from Bitterroot Sound Healing – Bella Marie.

“As nursing students who will work and serve in the healthcare industry, it’s inspiring to see this community as a whole to engage and advocate for a healthier future,” said Spring.

“We’ve been really impressed by the outpouring of support we’ve seen so far from Ravalli County and their commitment to their community’s overall wellbeing,” agreed Brown.

Second is the opportunity to engage in free wellness classes throughout the WINter Wellness months. Andersen has partnered with the community to offer health-focused classes this winter, which currently includes:

Bitterroot Sound Healing Session with Bella Marie, 5:30-7 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 21, at her studio on 127 W, Main St., in the Signal Square Plaza, Hamilton. Research shows the benefits of singing bowel therapy to reduce stress and symptoms of depression. During the upcoming holiday season, take a few moments to calm your body and mind. Space is limited to the first 15 people to register.

Walk and Talk with Bitterroot Land Trust, 4 to 5 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Learn about the current conservation project with the Bitterroot Land Trust in the city of Hamilton. Strap on your snowshoes to explore this future park.

Full Moon Hike at Teller Wildlife Refuge, 5:30-7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Come celebrate the end of the WINter Wellness program and explore the refuge led by Karen Zumwalt, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Teller Wildlife; and Susan Boelman, RCKN IT.

Space is limited in each of these classes, please register by contacting your MSU/Ravalli County Extension Office at ravalli@montana.edu or 406-375-6611.

Third is the problem of snow and ice in the winter months. The Ravalli County Fairgrounds have been granted permission by the Ravalli County Commissioners to open the doors of the First Interstate Building for a new use. For a $25 total fee, walkers are able to utilize this indoor walking space 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the three months of WINter Wellness. Some regulations include a signed waiver, a separate pair of clean shoes and only supervised children. For a complete list of policies and regulations, please contact the Fairgrounds Office at 406-363-3411.

Andersen encourages businesses and organizations to consider the WINter Wellness as a springboard for a worksite wellness incentive just for their clientele or office staff. For assistance or ideas to set up this type of program, contact Andersen at the MSU/Ravalli County Extension Office.

Complete information about Ravalli County WINter Wellness can be found online at ravalli.msuextension.org/walking.html or by connecting with the MSU/Ravalli County Extension Office at 406-375-6611 or 215 S. 4th St., Ste G, Hamilton. Join the event on Facebook: WINter Wellness: Nov 15, 2018 – Feb 15, 2019 and share it on your Facebook page or website.

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