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Mayor Ted Wheeler kicks off Oregon Walks campaign to get people moving across the city.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Mayor Ted Wheeler saunters along Southwest Columbia Street in downtown Portland during the kick-off for STEPtember, a movement sponsored by Oregon Walks.It's a nice day for a walk.

That was Ted Wheeler's sentiment, at least, as he led a pack of city workers and others through downtown Portland for a mayoral stroll in support of the advocacy group Oregon Walks.

Billed as a "first-annual" event, the 1.4-mile constitutional started at City Hall before ambling down Columbia Street, forging across the Hawthorne Bridge and then doubling-back toward the starting point via a trek on Main Street — all while dodging sunbeams rather than raindrops.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Izzy Armenta with Oregon Walks displays a clipboard with a map of the roughly 1.4-mile route on Friday, Sept. 7 in downtown Portland. The jaunt at 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7 marked the formal beginning of STEPtember, which is sponsored by Oregon Walks and the Oregon Public Health Association. Oregon Walks organized about 40 walks last year, and is planning even more for 2018.

"The best thing about walking, in my opinion, is it's something that almost anybody can do and it's free," Wheeler said from the steps of City Hall, 1221 S.W. 4th Ave. "It's also a community building activity."

The chance encounters and social interactions that occur while pounding the pavement have been shown to increase overall well-being, officials say, be it mental or physical health. Walking also opens up the senses to the sights, smells, geography and features of a neighborhood in a way that driving simply can't.

Government reporters occasionally spot Wheeler clad in his cycling suit, ready to bike to his home in the West Hills. His enthusiasm for fitness is also apparent when he takes his annual dip into the Willamette River.

But despite the trim physique, Wheeler said he doesn't wear a digital pedometer and suspects he isn't reaching the oft-repeated goal of 10,000 steps a day, especially while working.

"Unfortunately, it's more of a desk job than not. I spend a lot of time in meetings," he noted mid-mosey. "That's why it's important to be really intentional about getting up and getting out and having any level of physical activity that you can."

The mayor acknowledged that not everyone can walk with two feet and stressed that these events are open to people with all forms of mobility.

City Treasurer Brigid O'Callaghan blamed bad ankles for keeping her indoors too often, but said she couldn't resist the opportunity to sample the fall weather.

"The mayor urged us to participate in September. We just thought this was a great idea," she said. "I think it's one of the most beautiful times of the year."

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