BellevilleNicole Netzke was one of about 35 township employees from various departments who took part in Wednesday’s National Walking Day celebration.

“It’s just great to get out and enjoy the beautiful day and get some exercise,” Netzke, who works in the construction code department in Belleville, said. “The past year, with COVID-19 and all, we’ve been couped up. It’s a great idea to get out and walk for a while.”

Spearheaded by Councilman Vinny Cozzarelli, the event invited township employees to push themselves away from their desks and gather in front of Town Hall.

Members of the Belleville Police Department acted as chaperones for the group as it walked about a mile to Signature Fitness on Cortlandt Street.

Using yoga mats lined outside the gym, several township employees were led in a 20-minute yoga session by Signature Fitness’ Ann Maggio.

After sampling some healthy snacks, such as fruit cups and cold spring water, the employees set a course back for Town Hall. Although a shuttle was available to drive them back, the majority of township workers decided to walk back.

“Setting aside 30 minutes or an hour to be active and stay healthy is always a great investment of time,” Cozzarelli said. “This initiative was designed to get people up, get them outside, get them moving and help them literally take the first steps toward creating healthier habits.”

National Walking Day is held on the first Wednesday of every April to celebrate the easiest way to be the healthiest version of yourself. Walking for 30 to 60 minutes each day has often been cited as a great way to stay healthy and fend off diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Walking has also been shown to boost mood and increase concentration and creativity – and all that leads to more productivity at work or school.

Wednesday’s walk also gives the township’s Green Team a boast as it strives to earn silver certification in this year’s Sustainable Jersey program. The walk is an example of a health-centered initiative, which is one way the Green Team can earn points toward the certification.

The walk also dovetails into Mayor Michael Melham’s goal of creating a healthier and happier Belleville. Each year, he renews his Mayors Wellness Campaign pledge as part of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute’s Community Health and Wellness program.

The mayor and council host events promoting health and wellness such as 5K runs and pop-up yoga, community involvement programs and more.

“Events like the National Walking Day are more important now than ever,” Melham said. “So many of us have had our lives greatly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. We can start taking steps to getting back to a healthy, active lifestyle.”

The long walk also went a long way in fostering camaraderie among Belleville workers.

“You have people here from the tax collector’s department, from the police department, from the clerk’s officer and other parts of the township,” Township Manager Anthony Iacono said. “They may not necessarily interact on a regular basis. This was a fun, positive way to bring them together.”