Walking and talking or just walking, it’s all healthy

Thursday, February 13, 2014 8:00 am
Denise Membreno
When I was young, my dad and I would often take a short walk after dinner. Across from our home, a sidewalk surrounded my elementary school, creating a large suburban-type block, where we would take one or two laps. My father was a quiet man, so talking was not a big part of the experience. It was more like a meditation.
My daughter and I have been taking a lot of walks recently. We signed up for the Roanoke 100 Miler, which covers 100 miles in 100 days. It started Jan. 7, and by April 15, we need to have walked, run or pedaled 100 miles. We chose walking.
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Participating is part of my commitment to be healthy. As I approach the age of 50, I want to be active.
In my younger days, I played, soccer and basketball, and as a young adult, I ran three marathons. I was injured while training for the fourth, and since becoming a mother, I had never gotten back on the road — until now. It has been a struggle, but after several weeks of walking, I am noticing a difference in the way I feel.
Part of my struggle was attitude. When we first started, I would think to myself: “I used to run at least four miles a day; why is this single mile so hard?”
Planning to do the 100-miler with my daughter has kept me motivated. The benefits that I am seeing in us both are motivators, too. The distance has gotten easier, and I also am losing weight.
“There are so many benefits,” said Lauren Acker, fitness program coordinator and certified fitness instructor at the SML YMCA. “It reduces heart disease; it improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and blood lipid profiles, as well as helps reduce the risk of obesity. And it is good for your mental well-being and better than therapy, I like to say. And there are many more benefits.”
Walking is also free. You just need a good pair of shoes. Walking in the SML area is always a treat, no matter what the season. The beauty never ceases to amaze me, and the local trails are free to use.
“We have two trails,” said Connie Mays of Booker T. Washington National Monument. “We have the historical area trail, which is a quarter-mile walk, and then we have what we call the Jack-O-Lantern Branch trail, or nature trail. It’s actually a one-and-a-half mile trail.”
The trails pass by historic sites such as the Sparks Cemetery, and in the spring, the nature trail offers an abundance of wildflowers. You may see deer and turkey on the trails, as well.
Smith Mountain Lake State Park has more than 12 miles of trails open year-round. The trails vary in difficulty, from easy to moderate. Some of the trails have beautiful views of the lake, and like those at Booker T. Washington National Monument, there is an abundance of wildlife.
You will see the best benefits of walking if you are consistent, although that can be difficult in winter. When it is too cold to walk outside, my daughter and I have walked the malls in Roanoke. It is not our favorite walk, but at least we are logging our miles.
The Smith Mountain Lake YMCA has a cushioned indoor track that is easy on the legs and back. The Y offers a yearly walking membership for $249 and a day walk for $10. They also sell punch cards for $60 for 10 visits to the track. The Y also has several walking programs.
Acker recommended checking with your physician before starting a walking program. Once cleared, get a good pair of shoes and try walking for 10 minutes. Keep adding time as your fitness level progresses.
And on this Valentine’s Day, grab your partner and sign up for the YMCA’s Sole-Mate, a walking program that starts today.
“Sole-Mate, a walk with a friend, is a walking class every Friday at 9 a.m.,” explained Acker. “We want everyone to get involved, bring their friends and walk the indoor track. Some people don’t want to do it alone, so they can try this.”
Walking is good for the heart and can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. You will maintain or lose weight on a walking program done properly, and as my dad knew, walking improves your state of mind.
I think about my dad often as I walk with my daughter. Our walks are not quiet; for my daughter, talking is something she has to do. So we walk. She talks, I listen; we both are healthier.
American Heart Association,
Smith Mountain Lake YMCA,
Smith Mountain Lake State Park Trail Guide, www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/documents/data/trail-guide-smithmountain.pdf
Booker T. Washington National Monument, www.nps.gov/bowa

Reprinted from the Laker Weekly

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