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HOGBACK — Get ready for a summer packed with healthy events planned to get people to tie on their running shoes and get moving.

About 40,000 people are expected to participate in "Just Move It" events across the Navajo Nation and in border towns.

Organizers have planned events occurring in each of the Nation's 110 chapters, and then some.

The Just Move It program, a national campaign in its 19th year, is a series of non-competitive running and walking events that started in response to an increase in childhood diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The Navajo tribe adopted the campaign and hosts local events that last year drew at total of more than 37,000 participants.

According to the Navajo Just Move It website, the first series of events, held in 1993, drew fewer than 500 athletes in 20 communities.

Local events this year kick off at 7 a.m. Sunday in Hogback and continue almost daily throughout the summer, with 130 events crammed into three months. The final event begins at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11, in Kayenta, Ariz.

Events are scheduled in Bloomfield, Farmington, Ignacio, Colo., Cortez, Colo., and various other towns bordering the reservation, and participants from all walks of life are welcome.

Eight service units on the reservation plan Just Move It events for their communities. The Shiprock unit has 31 walks planned during the summer, including the one in Farmington on May 11.

The Farmington walk is the biggest of the local events, said Roberta Diswood, recreation specialist with Diné Health Service and co-coordinator for the Shiprock Just Move It program.

The Hogback walk will draw about 500 participants, Diswood said. The Farmington walk, by comparison, usually attracts about 1,700.

None of the events has a turnout of fewer than 200 people, she said.

"This is the 19th year for our events," she said. "The numbers have been pretty steady. Last year we had a little bit less, but we think that was because of the gas prices."

Most walkers or runners who make a practice out of attending Just Move It events will make it to at least one per year, Diswood said. Everyone who participates gets a free T-shirt at their first event of the year.

"We want them to be able to just take those first steps into being more active, to go there, have fun and meet people," Diswood said. "We just want people to be more physically active."

The Navajo Nation has sponsored many competitive athletic events, such as marathons and other running races, but until 1993, it lacked a structured way to encourage families to participate in non-competitive, community events.

Organizers partnered with the Shiprock Office of Youth Development to sponsor the first program, which was held exclusively in the Northern Agency. Three years later, however, it had spread throughout the Navajo Nation. By 1999, every chapter was hosting an event.

The program has grown every year, peaking at more than 47,000 participants in 2006.

Alysa Landry: alandry@daily-times.com