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Physical activity community program thrives, despite COVID-19, seeks new applicants

WVU Today

Amidst a global pandemic, exercise has become a more valuable tool in boosting immune systems and managing stress, according to West Virginia University researchers.

Thanks to a program spearheaded by the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, West Virginians, from Berkeley County to Mingo County, will have new and improved opportunities to be physically active in their communities.

The mini-grant program, funded by the West Virginia Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, launched in 2019 with the goal of improving the lives of West Virginians through increased access to physical activity opportunities.

In February, the Center for ActiveWV announced a slate of inaugural grant funding for 13 projects to improve pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure in communities, schools and health centers across the state.

Despite barriers and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, partners around the state found creative ways to accomplish their goals.

Now the Center for ActiveWV looking at projects to fund for the 2020-21 year.

Two projects during the the first year of the program were local.

Monongahela River Trails Conservancy connected the Deckers Creek Trail to a Reedsville neighborhood and community park by building a one-quarter-mile trail connector.

WVU Medicine’s Walk with a Future Doc encouraged patients to walk for 60 minutes through organized virtual group walks in which patients could talk with medical students and physicians.

“Through these 60-minute walks, we are getting community members out and about to improve not only their physical but also their mental and social health,” said Mia Antinone, medical student at WVU School of Medicine and co-host of Walk with a Future Doc. “The virtual walks have uniquely allowed us to walk with participants on the trails of West Virginia, sunny beaches of South Carolina, local neighborhoods and small towns.”

A primary goal of the program is to help increase access to physical activity opportunities to West Virginia communities and to encourage residents to be active where they live, work, learn and play. West Virginia leads the nation in adult obesity at 39.5%, according to nonprofit Trust for America’s Health.

”The stress and uncertainty of living through a pandemic while working from home has created a burning desire to get outside and explore the beauty of West Virginia’s green spaces and trails,” said Sam Zizzi, associate dean for research at CPASS and co-coordinator of the Center for ActiveWV. “These experiences can be restorative for our physical and mental health. I hope these mini-grants will be one of the many silver linings in the dark cloud of COVID-19.”

“Some of our community partners will create new or enhanced locations for residents to walk, and others will create policies promoting shared use of facilities or incentivizing physical activity in some way,” Zizzi said. “The reason that policy and environmental changes are so important is that those changes affect almost everyone equally, especially if all types of users, kids, older adults, people with a disability, are considered. We want being active to be the easy choice in all West Virginia communities and these projects help us move closer toward that goal.”

To apply for funding or for more information about the Center for ActiveWV, go to or contact Rachel Byrne at

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