BURNS HARBOR | Under a sunny blue sky early Wednesday afternoon, 116 ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor workers traversed a hilly, muddy and sometimes sandy path on a mile-long loop through a patch of woods on company property.
It was part of National Walking Day, an American Heart Association effort to get Americans more physically active.
The group set out on its walk after hearing about the health benefits of physical activity.
"Walking is a natural way to reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure," said Diane Kemp, executive director of the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death, she explained.
Jolice Pojeta, manager of communications and corporate responsibility for ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, said this is the sixth or seventh year the company has participated in National Walking Day.
"According to the American Heart Association, walking is the single most effective form of exercise, with one of the lowest dropout rates," she said.
The company creates teaching gardens in partnership with schools to help change the way children eat and think about food and nutrition. It also promotes its walking paths and hosts lunch and learn events for employees to raise health awareness, she said.
Kemp presented company officials with a plaque recognizing ArcelorMittal as a gold star Fit-Friendly Work Site, meaning it meets certain criteria, such as exercise options, to support a healthy workplace.
Centier Bank, Strack & Van Til and Methodist Hospitals are other local gold star Fit-Friendly Work Sites, she said.
Wednesday's event was the first time Portage resident Al Kirk, an engineer at the company, walked the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor Deerfield Woods Fitness Trails.
He appreciated the variety of trees along the walk.
"I'd get some plates and identify the trees," Kirk suggested.
Will Metz, a Portage resident who works in information technology for the company, has seen turkeys, geese with their goslings and deer in the woods there. As he mentioned the deer, a pair appeared near the trail.
Metz likes the quiet of the walk.
"You don't have to hear the mill noises," he said.
When workers finished the loop, they received a pack of playing cards depicting 52 ways for families to keep active, such as playing kick the can or running through the yard.
Aside from its Burns Harbor location, ArcelorMittal employees in East Chicago and New Carlisle will participate this week in walking events.