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Walking back into exercise

  • If you’d like to be healthier, start walking. Metro Creative Connection



Recorder Staff
Friday, August 11, 2017

GREENFIELD — If you’re the type of person always looking for the right time to start exercising again (like many of us), then consider right now a great time to begin walking back into it.

While the weather is still relatively cool for this time of year, it could be a good time to capitalize on a rare combination: late summer sunlight and comfortable conditions. Although, of course, a heat wave could kick back in any week, now is a good chance to begin settling into a good habit.

The start to a healthier you could be simple: walk 20 to 30 minutes at a brisk pace, three times a week, and that could lead to several health benefits, said Baystate Franklin Medical Center Physical Therapist Jacob Quinney. 

The key is walking at a pace at which you can still carry a conversation, but it’s a bit of a challenge to do so.

“It’s not necessarily the act of walking, but walking with an elevated heart rate,” Quinney said.

But this doesn’t have to discourage you either, Quinney points out, because if you normally do not exercise, any type of walking on a fairly regular basis can be helpful.

The physical therapist, who will be starting a running analysis and treatment program out of the hospital within the next six weeks, notes it’s important to create a habit and get into the mood of exercising.

Meanwhile, for elders who have trouble walking for long periods, he suggests an activity like walking in the mall for a total of 60 minutes, but splitting it up into sessions — 15 minutes walking, five minutes sitting on a bench, 15 minutes walking and so on.

For the people into the latest wave of technology, Quinney points to the value of the popular “Fitbit” exercise accessory, which essentially is a technologically-savvy step counter that wears like a fashionable watch — and other tools like it — as a way that not only gets people’s “steps” up, but also gets people into the mentality of working out regularly.

“What the Fitbit craze tells me (is) it’s a motivating factor and it gets them to be more attuned to what they’re doing in their lifestyle,” Quinney said. 

He does caution though that not too start exercising too much, too quickly: if you do start trying to hit steps goals from a state of rarely walking, be mindful to increase your goals in small increments to avoid injuries. 

Some people in Franklin County are already champions at hitting step goals – those who participated in the annual YMCA in Greenfield walking challenge. In this year’s competition ending last month, between 14 teams, in a six week program, in total participants walked over 38 million steps. 

Walking as a part of a competition, with teammates to not let down, is a great way to make sure you get your steps in, the Y said.

“Everybody needs a little bit of accountability and everybody can walk,” Greenfield YMCA Fitness Director Jayne Trosin said. 

This year participants were challenged to walk 10,000 steps in a day, which Trosin said is a good way to maintain fitness and that pushing to 15,000 steps in a day could help you lose weight. 

Quinney said that walking can help people in a number of ways: from back issues, to knee and ankle issues, to cardiovascular benefits. 

“One of the most tried-and-true recommendations is walking,” Quinney said. 

In a special health report for the Harvard Medical School, it recommends for people to: stand tall, keep their eyes up, roll your shoulder up, back and then down, swing your arms from freely from your shoulders, maintain a neutral pelvis by keeping your abs tight, and to step lightly in a heel-to-toe stride. 

Quinney also recommends to make sure you have proper footwear, like decent sneakers for walking. 

In general though, the biggest thing is to just go out and walk. 

Luckily there are many great paths around the county, some of which can be found on the website www.walkfranklincounty.org, which includes 31 maps from towns across the local area. In Greenfield there’s Poet’s Seat Tower and Highland Park, in Turners Falls there’s the canal path and in Ashfield there’s the lake. 

There are several walkable routes in towns like Shelburne Falls, where a two mile loop around town is featured in the annual Bridge of Flowers race. Then there’s a handful of walking paths in Northfield, like the Mill Brook wetlands and trail, local resident Joanne McGee said. 

“The best walking really is in the center of town,” McGee said about Northfield. “We have new sidewalks which are really lovely.”

Quinney also recommends sidewalks in towns across the county, providing accessible, solid paths during the daylight. 

But perhaps the best piece of advice the physical therapist gave was his simplest: “Anyway you can do it, it’s probably good to do it.”

Have a health tip for Joshua Solomon?

You can reach him at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264