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Walk More. Connect More. - Why Socially Connected Communities Matter

Walkability of Downtown DSM

September 23, 2021

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a great place to live and work. You don’t have to walk far to find green space, a restaurant or coffee shop or public art.

The area is also home to many of the region’s employers which bring a rush of employees to Downtown DSM every weekday. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those employees were sent home and the void they left was felt deeply by all.

Keeping Downtown DSM a Connected Community

Without people, there is no community. People — and the connections they form with one another, the spaces and local businesses around them — are what create vibrant communities. One of the ways to increase those connections is by encouraging residents to take to the streets for transportation, exercise and socialization.


Walking to Create Community

Here is how walking is related to more socially connected communities:

  • Improve safety and security: Having community members regularly walking on the street discourages criminal or nuisance activity.
  • Increase road safety: Research shows that drivers slow down and take more care in streets that have lots of people walking and playing nearby.
  • Boost local businesses: Research shows people who walk or catch public transport to the local shops go more often, stay longer and spend more money. Shopping in Downtown DSM means you contribute to your local economy, creating jobs and livelihoods in your community.
  • Create a positive cycle: As people see others walking, they feel safer about walking themselves and over time, more and more people walk.
  • Walking cultivates community: The more we walk, the more we know about where we live and the people we meet and share our neighborhood with. This is why walkable communities are vibrant communities.

Strong social ties not only have a positive impact on the health of our communities, but the physical and mental health of individuals. Nothing is more important than our health and our connections with others.

However, over the past 18 months, the ways we have connected with others in Downtown DSM have changed and many Iowans may not be feeling as connected to the places they live and work. This lack of social connectedness has a negative impact on our physical, mental and social health.

As more employees return to Downtown DSM, there is no better time than now to grab a walking buddy and register for the Healthiest State 11th Annual Walk on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The Annual Walk is an opportunity for you to safely gather with neighbors and colleagues and join thousands of other Iowans in a collective effort to improve the wellness of our state by committing to walk for 30 minutes.

The Healthiest State Initiative and the Greater Des Moines Partnership invite you to stop by Cowles Commons on your walking route between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., for free water and healthy lunch options from food trucks (available for purchase). A brief program at Noon will include a speaker from The Partnership, statewide sponsor Delta Dental of Iowa, and Governor Kim Reynolds.

Walking is the easiest, most affordable and accessible form of physical activity to improve our health. It’s also a great way to reconnect with your community, workplace and the people who are part of it. Following more than a year of social distancing and disconnection, walking is the perfect activity to take a step in the right direction for your physical, mental and social health.

Planning on walking with us on Oct. 6? Register your walk at IowaHealthiestState.com/Walk and then plan to stop by Cowles Commons for connection with your fellow Downtown DSM community members.

Downtown DSM employers are encouraged to support these efforts and can download a free Annual Walk Toolkit, including images, posters, a logo and a social media guide to promote the walk to employees and community members. Residents outside of downtown who are working from home are also encouraged to sign up and walk in their neighborhood.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.

Jami Haberl and Meg Schneider

Jami Haberl is the executive director of the Healthiest State Initiative. Her career has focused on building public, private and nonprofit partnerships to address key statewide issues ranging from public health disasters to health and well-being efforts.