By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Walking is an everyday activity. We walk to our cars. We walk in the grocery store. We walk up the stairs. People that add steps to their daily routine can experience the many health benefits that come from this everyday activity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s recommended that adults get at least two hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity each week such as brisk walking. By making this regular movement into a fitness regimen, people will see positive effects on their body and mind. Regular walking can help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your mood. The activity can also prevent or manage certain conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Walking is the kind of activity that can be done by all ages and all different fitness abilities. There’s also many different ways you can add more walking to your day. Several programs and events throughout the area encourage people to walk the walk.
For those that want to add some adventure to their walks; they can make the activity a treasure hunt. Geocaching has become very popular.
“A cache is something hidden,” said Lynn Elliott, education coordinator atGreat Valley Nature Center in Devault.
Elliot said the center organizes an intro to geocaching program for families and help Junior Girl Scouts earn their geocaching badge. The cache, or the hidden treasure, is usually inside a box and can be all kinds of trinkets. People hide the box, mark the GPS coordinates and then upload the location to the geocaching website www.geocaching.com/play. Other people find the box by using the coordinates to reach the location where they can either leave the item in the box or replace it with something else.
“Whatever the trinkets that people put in originally, that will change overtime as other people find the cache,” Elliott said.
She said it’s a great way to get people walking and exploring the area at the same time. The nature center also has another treasure hunt activity that gets people to explore the outdoors. There’s an introductory letterboxing program and Brownie Girl Scouts can earn their letterboxing badge at the nature center.
Elliott said letterboxing started long before geocaching but the activities are very similar to one another. Letterboxing also uses hidden boxes outdoors but instead of GPS coordinates; people follow clues to lead them to the box. Once people find the box then they add stamps found inside to their log book to show they were there.
“So it’s a very similar concept, in terms of it feeling like a treasure hunt,” Elliott said.
Letterboxing and Geocaching are available all over the United States and Pennsylvania. There are lots of geocaching treasures along the Schuylkill River Trail. More than 75 geocaches are hidden along the trail between Fairmount Park and Conshohocken as well as 50 items hidden between Conshohocken and the Valley Forge National Historic Park. For more about the treasures that can be found along the trail, visit www.schuylkillriver.org/Geocaching.aspx?activity=25.
WALK WITH A DOC
There are several programs in the area that get the community out walking with a physician. Grand View Health in Sellersville has a Get Fit with a Doc free walking program. The walks began this month and will last until October.
Grand View Health exercise physiologist Elaine Feiss said the walking program started last year as part of a community health initiative to get people active. She said it’s modeled after the national program Walk with a Doc. At the beginning of every walk, a physician does a brief presentation on their specialty. Feiss said a variety of physicians come out to talk about different subjects such as foot health, heart health and several other areas.
After the presentation, the group goes on a half-mile walk where they can ask the doctor questions. Last week was the first walk of the season. Feiss said they had a good turnout with about 70 people participating.
“Everyone was smiling and just having a very nice time,” she said.
Feiss said all different fitness levels participate in the program and that some people even use walkers. She said the main goal is just to get people moving. The activity can be modified for all abilities through speed and terrain, she said. Feiss also said walking is a fitness activity that isn’t intimidating so it’s a good way to start becoming more active. She said it’s also an activity that doesn’t really need anything extra to get started.
“You don’t need anything fancy, just a great pair of shoes,” Feiss said.
Activate Phoenixville Area also organized a series of walks with healthcare professionals this month called Prescribe-A-Trail. The walks are held on the Schuylkill River Trail for a mile long loop. The walk ends with a free snack and giveaways that motivate healthy habits. The last walk in the series will be April 30.
Senior citizens, their grandchildren and caregivers can make a game of walking with a program organized by the Wellness Council of Boyertown. The free walks encourage activity and fun with others. The walk is also open to those outside of the borough. Each senior gets a bingo card and for every half lap they walk around the track, 10 bingo numbers are pulled. People that get a bingo, choose a prize which includes household goods and healthy living items.
“Everyone loves bingo especially the senior citizens,” said Michelle Docchio of the wellness council.
She said anytime you can give people an incentive for exercising then it makes it just that more fun, Docchio said. She said within the last year they have opened up the walks to others besides seniors. She said walking bingo is a great family activity and many senior citizens watch their grandchildren during the day.
Docchio said not only is walking bingo a great aerobic activity but it also brings people together and has a great social component. It gets people outside in the fresh air to walk with others in the community, she said. Docchio said they been doing the program for about five years and people continue to come back year after year because they develop friendships.
“It becomes not just exercise. It becomes a social activity,” she said.
WALK AND NETWORK
More and more, organizations are using walking as an opportunity to network with others. The Mercury Mile of the Pottstown area began in 2014 as a way to promote walking as a free exercise. In the last two years, the program has expanded to include business networking and now travels to areas outside of Pottstown including to Berks and Chester Counties.
Participants have the opportunity to network and learn about different organizations in the area. The walk’s location changes every week and different businesses will host The Mercury Mile throughout the season. Businesses and organizations that host the mile will use the time as opportunity to inform the community about their company. This year’s series will include walks in the afternoon and evening.
There are numerous opportunities to get out and walk. Townships and boroughs even usually have a historical walking tour that residents can take. It’s just a matter of getting in motion to explore the area.