By JENN BOGDAN
ANNAPOLIS (Sept. 30, 2008)—In case you didn't know, as of Wednesday, walking is the official exercise of Maryland. So, dust off those walking shoes and get ready to show state pride.
But before taking that heart-healthy walk, don't forget to eat a piece of Smith Island Cake, designated the state dessert in April.
Maryland holds the honors as first state in the nation to designate a state exercise thanks to the efforts of Delegate Bill Bronrott, D-Montgomery.
All the walking inspired by the new state designation is supposed to combat cardio-vascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Bronrott said any small step towards making Marylanders healthier would be worthwhile.
A healthy Marylander could even help boost the economy. Cardio-vascular disease costs the state $2.25 billion yearly, Bronrott said.
"So just remember the next time someone tells you to take a hike, tell them you're from Maryland and thank them for the patriotic reminder," said Bronrott, in a statement.
The delegate first introduced a bill to make walking a Maryland trademark six years ago after receiving a suggestion from East Silver Spring Elementary School student Will Smith.
Then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich vetoed the bill, calling it "silly." However, legislation approving a state horse proved much more sensible later that year when the thoroughbred joined the ranks of Maryland's state symbols.
Besides walking, Maryland has 22 other state-sanctioned symbols ranging from the predictable Baltimore Oriole state bird and the blue crab state crustacean to the curious. Jousting was made the state sport in 1962, milk the state drink in 1998.
Efforts to make the soybean the state crop proved less fruitful. Legislation introduced last year stalled in the House.
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends 10,000 steps a day or 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week to reduce the risk of everything from cancer to arthritis.
"If we want better health care for everyone in Maryland, we need to promote a way to keep everyone consistently healthy," said Bronrott.
No kickoff events are planned to celebrate Maryland's newest tradition, but Bronrott said he plans to get his 10,000 steps in by walking his Italian Hunting Dog, Rosie, near his Bethesda home.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.