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|June 11- June 17, 2009
• Upcoming Events
America’s favorite exercise
Walking toward well-being
by Richard Seven
Walking is by far the most popular exercise in the nation.
It’s easy, convenient and cheap. It’s versatile, too. Walking gets you from points A to B — with fresh air and a view. It can relax and soothe, or help burn calories, build muscle tone and improve balance. It’s easy, but you can make it more challenging if you want a workout.
And it is perhaps the most social exercise. It could even be argued that we would be nicer to each other if we walked more. Ever see pedestrians make obscene gestures to each other?
So what’s your route? Do you set goals? How do you make it interesting? What shoes or other accoutrements should you buy? The beauty of walking is that there are no absolute answers.
Ali Terpening, who recently relocated, soon got frustrated by how hard it can be to strike up a friendship with people. As often is heard from transplants, she found people nice, but not friendly.
So she started her “urban hikers” club for people 50 and older. It started with five walkers, but about 500 have participated since she began it. The starting points and routes change.
The walks generally range from two to five miles and she and her assistant organizer, Dave Blaum, will adjust the difficulty depending on who’s there. But they walk and talk, rain or shine.
“I think it has taken off because there are many transplants who were having a hard time meeting anyone,” she says. “And it’s a great way to see the city. We get a lot of people from the suburbs, too.”
If you’re interested in hooking up with a group — or starting your own — see walkers.meetup.com/cities/us/co/boulder/groups.
Dan Tripps is director of the Seattle University Center for the Study of Sport & Exercise. So he knows about maximizing effort to achieve fitness. Walking, he says, can help lower blood pressure, stave off disease and improve sleep, just to name a few benefits.
He walks at least five miles a day for the peace it gives him. While walking, he finds himself contemplating everything from life’s complexity and his values, to envisioning solutions to issues and alternating between recalling and dreaming.
“In a world fraught with video games, television, iPod, cellphones, faxes, e-mails and meetings, walking gives me time to engage in the disappearing art of reflection, experience beautiful scenery and recapture the sense of wonder from being alive,” he says.
It’s a workout
When people see Ken Mundt chugging along with the aid of his poles they imagine a guy yearning for the mountains. Only this is Mundt’s year-round exercise, six miles a day, six days a week, in rain, snow or sunshine.
He began about five years ago as a way to help control his diabetes. He never liked jogging enough for it to become a habit, but like many who incorporate poles into their walks, he was looking for something more than a normal walk. He wanted to burn more calories and challenge his upper body, too.
“I never had an upper body before, but my wife says she’s noticed a difference. It’s a total workout, but I also kind of get in a zone,” says Mundt, director of community involvement for IslandWood, a nonprofit that seeks to teach environmental stewardship to kids.
“The 90 minutes goes fast. It is very meditative. I like being outside; I’m not a health-club guy.”
There are various names and styles connected to walking with poles. Mundt, 58, calls his method “exerstriding” and says it combines the tranquility of walking with the added exertion of using his upper body. He lost 20 pounds in the first year and has since held his weight and diabetic condition stable.
While he uses poles he bought from Exerstrider.com, he says regular cross-country skiing poles could work, too, if you put rubber tips on their ends.
Pedometers or heart-rate monitors can help track your workout. The pedometer counts your steps and translates the number into distance. A heart-rate monitor tells you just how hard you’re working and alerts you when you are working too hard.
And in the event you don’t walk to meet people, reflect or train, you can always turn on your MP3 player and wander. And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to get some good shoes.
Soles for souls
Give those old walking shoes a higher purpose by donating them to Soles4Souls, a charity that gives them to people in need across the world, including those who suffered from natural disasters.
To donate, see www.soles4souls.org/donate
(c) 2009, The Seattle Times. Visit The Seattle Times Extra on the World Wide Web at http://www.seattletimes.com/
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