By JOAN COLBERT
When we were babies, our parents spent hours, days and months teaching us to walk. As children, we wobbled and toddled until we careered from object to object, intent on reaching the next point quickly. We graduated to tricycles, then bicycles, and we thirsted for our turn behind the wheel of the family automobile. Somehow, en route to that rite of passage we left the wonder of walking by the wayside.
You are a pump. A beautiful pump, but a pump. It’s not just your heart. Your entire body is a magnificent hydraulic system. After all, we are 80 percent water, aren’t we? How well we function depends on how well we keep it all moving. Walking is one of the keys.
I talked to some neighbors about keeping our feet going. Floreen McKinley created a space to tie walking to worship in a safe environment. Natalie Smith redefines busy, but has always been purposeful about walking. She shared with me how technology keeps her accountable.
Last autumn, Floreen began opening her church four times a week to provide people in her congregation a place to walk. In her life, she has made it a practice to do things for a group, not just for herself. She has each hour of walking begin before a church activity, and it’s set up for two morning and two evening times. The response has been heartfelt appreciation.
Here’s what Floreen does. Note how complicated this is. She unlocks the door and plays some worshipful music. “It was one of the simpler things I’ve done,” she said. She believed it would benefit people with health issues, particularly the elderly. “Sometimes people are told by their doctors to walk or get exercise, but not stress themselves.” With the musical accompaniment, walking can become a spiritual, reflective activity.
Floreen used to watch her two sons at basketball practices in the Washington High School gym. At that time the area above the bleachers was available more often and she walked laps during the practice. Each circuit around the top is 1/8 of a mile. You can still walk there, but only during athletic events now. Give it a go the next time you’re there.
Natalie Smith has always walked, but lately she has become more accountable. The day we met she told me she’d left her FitBit at home and that she turned around to go get it. Her sister has one too and they share their data with each other.
The FitBit tracks steps, but it can do much more. You can link to applications that track calories or map where you go. Natalie’s device has a heart rate monitor and she likes to keep a pace of at least 250 steps per minute. As with other FitBit walkers I’ve known, Natalie says that sometimes she comes up short of her 10,000 steps per day. If she’s close, she may run upstairs and downstairs to increase her numbers. She mentioned that one day she’d walked only 3,000, but added that some days are like that.
Why does she walk? A few years ago an older relative who was not physically active had a stroke and had to go through rehabilitation. Natalie said, “I wanted to be healthier.” She has taken her health to a higher level. Natalie goes to Yoga on Main with Debbie Rodimel, which helps her joints and vitality, and does weight training and cardio with Gil Young.
Now that harsher weather is behind us, there are several walking opportunities for you to consider. WalMart and TraderBakers are both large indoor venues where you can easily achieve some distance and stay dry. Outside there are many more options. You can walk in your neighborhood or through your town, stretch your stride at a local park, or take in the scenery around area lakes. Hiking, walking a dog, and taking part in various benefit walks can be refreshing. You may want to consider initiating a program to walk indoors like Floreen McKinley or you may want to download an application to your phone that can measure the distance you walk or purchase a device to measure your steps per day. Solo or in a group, the most important thing is to begin.
If you’re walking along public roads, take precautions. Also, be visible. Wear bright colors and don’t assume you’re seen. People do a lot of things while they’re also driving, so a little extra care on your part goes a long way. Officer Todd Church from the Washington Police Department said that in towns lower speed limits—especially in school zones—make walking safer. Still, as Chief Deputy Gary Allison of the Daviess County Sherriff’s Department suggests, while you’re enjoying nature save some of your attention for your surroundings and you’ll be walking safely and healthily for a long time to come.