Judy Dilling (left) and Jen Chalmers (in red) help walk Lakeview Elementary School students home as part of the Vitality Project's "walking buses" last week in Albert Lea, Minn. The project has added an average 3.1 years to the lives of residents through improved diet, exercise and living habits.
With organizers' help, the city crammed five years of sidewalk and bike trail construction into a year to make exercise easier for its 18,000 residents. Restaurants added healthier menu options and grocery stores showcased wholesome foods. People snacked on fruits and veggies more and ate less fast food.
Schools stopped celebrating birthdays with sugary treats and started setting up "walking buses" that allowed kids to walk to and from school together with adult supervision. Employers gave workers time to exercise.
Organizers say the first-of-its kind experiment added an average 3.1 years to the longevity of about 2,300 residents who calculated their life spans by answering 36 lifestyle questions dubbed the "vitality compass."