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How many steps to walk off
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[AUG. 16, 2004]  URBANA -- Ah, fair food! Illinois State Fair visitors could get quite a workout just walking from the funnel-cake stand to the deep-fried Snickers-bar vendor and then back up the midway for a corn dog and a lemon shakeup, right? Not exactly.

"Actually, it would take up to nine hours and 13,000 steps to walk off an entire funnel cake," said Robin Orr, a University of Illinois nutrition and wellness specialist who truly believes there are six portions in a funnel cake. That would enable six people to get their funnel-cake fix for the price of one confection.

As part of their fight for a healthier populace, Orr and University of Illinois Extension educators will be setting up shop in the Illinois Department of Agriculture tent at the state fair Aug. 13-15 where they'll be asking visitors to keep track of their steps as they visit fair attractions.

Extension will be selling visors and pedometers and handing out fair maps showing just how many steps it takes to walk from one place to another on the fairgrounds. "For example, it takes 944 steps and approximately 190 calories to walk from the Orr Building to the Grandstand -- if you cut through the Swine Barn," Orr said.

"Counting steps raises your awareness of exactly how much energy you're expending. And that helps you make a good choice when you're yearning for that funnel cake," she said.

"But people don't attend the state fair every day," she added. "It's a special occasion, so you might want to enjoy some of your favorite fair foods in moderation."

Orr said that healthier choices among fair fare include a 200-calorie large lemon shakeup that you could walk off in 1,000 steps or 40 minutes and a 270-calorie corn dog walked off in 1,350 steps or 54 minutes. Orr's simple rule is that it takes five steps to walk off one calorie.

That Snickers bar, even before it's been deep fried, is 479 calories or 2,395 steps. "Just keep walking," said the specialist.

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Fortunately for deep-fried Snickers-bar eaters, this state fair is mapped out with walking paths so you can walk, walk and walk some more, Orr said. She encouraged fair visitors to visit the Walk Illinois booth before going anywhere else at the fair so they can be sure to count every step they take.

Walkers will be encouraged to keep logs, and Orr hopes to award a prize each day to the person who's walked the farthest.

The nutrition and wellness educators believe that being aware of the number of calories you're taking in versus the number of calories you're using is an important first step toward weight reduction.

"Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight almost always involves making lifestyle changes. Our body weight and our health are determined by a combination of eating right and getting enough exercise," she said.

And walking is a great exercise for anyone who's able to do it. "It's easy, it's simple, and it's not expensive. It's a weight-bearing exercise that takes no equipment. Every time you put your heel down, you stimulate bone growth," Orr said.

"It's also a great activity to do with other people," she added. "You can talk to people and solve problems while you walk. You can get to know your family!"

For more information on University of Illinois Extension's programs to promote the benefits of walking, visit

[University of Illinois news release]

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