Saturday, August 1, 2015

Walking group going strong

Given the many benefits of walking, Jolene Quast, a health educator with the Northwestern Health Unit here, is pleased with the positive response to the “Walk Away Winter” walking group that started up last fall and runs Thursdays from noon-1 p.m.
“I’ve had a very good response so far, with a core group of about 10 people coming,” said Quast, though adding she’s seeing some new people joining in, too.

“It is absolutely open to anyone, people of all ages,” she stressed.
“I’ve had moms come with babies in strollers or with children who are running around.
“And that’s fine because children need exercise, too,” she reasoned.
Quast said she also sees retirees taking part, as well as professionals who are spending their lunch hour walking with the group.
“I do want people to feel that any age group can come,” she reiterated.
“There is no age limit at all, and they can just show up whenever they can make it.”
Quast said there are so many benefits to walking.
“People walk for pleasure, to stay in shape, or manage their weight,” she noted, adding some people use walking as a therapy for injuries or troubled feelings.
“People walk to explore, for companionship, and improved well-being.”
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, those aged 18 and up should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It also is beneficial to incorporate muscle and bone strengthening activities, using major muscle groups, at least two days per week.
“I love walking, personally,” Quast remarked. “I find it is easy to do and it’s free.
“My husband and I walk together because it gives us time to talk without the kids around.
“Because we have such a beautiful community here in the summer, with a lot of people walking along the path by the river, I just wanted there to be something in the community that could go on all year long,” she explained.
Quast recalled utilizing the ’52 Canadians Arena to walk around when her children were in swimming lessons.
“And I thought maybe some people don’t even know about it,” she said. “So if I formed an organized walking activity, people might be more likely to come when they know something is set up.”
“I always walk, so I just make time to do it at this time,” said Sharlene Radbourne, a participant of the walking group who is recovering from back surgery.
“It’s good for me—it’s my therapy.”
“I like the way walking makes you feel,” echoed fellow participant Pat Stoyka.
“It’s the very best exercise—the best medicine.
“But it can be hard to keep up,” Stoyka admitted.
“It’s something you need to get in the habit of doing, so this program helps with that.”
Leslie Danielson agreed, noting sometimes it’s hard to set the time aside to walk.
But since she wants to get into shape, Danielson has been trying to walk more—and walking with the group is motivating.
“Sometimes it helps if you know that people are expecting you,” Quast said.
“It does becoming a social network for people.”
And since the program has been going so well, Quast is hoping the group will grow to include even more walkers because, despite its “Walk Away Winter” name, she will be continuing the program throughout the year.
“I would like to change the name to make it inclusive of all seasons, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know,” she said.
The group has been walking indoors at the ’52 Canadians Arena. But when the weather is nice, Quast is hoping the group will meet at the Point and walk outdoors.
“It’s such a nice spot, with washrooms, picnic tables, and shade to get out of the sun,” she noted.
On cold and rainy days, the walking group meets inside the Memorial Sports Centre at the tables across from the canteen.
“It’s one hour of your day to come out and meet other people—not to mention the health benefits,” Quast encouraged.
Although the group is scheduled for one hour, the group walks for the first half hour, with time afterwards for a healthy snack, fellowship, and information.
Quast brings a snack each week for the participants—everything from fruit and muffins to bagels with bean hummus.
“As often as I can, I use a healthy foods cookbook to make a snack,” she noted.
She also bring along information from the health unit to share about healthy living or setting goals, for example.
Quast said the provided snack generally is filling enough to be considered lunch, or people are welcome to bring their own lunch if they are on a break from work.
“I know people might be concerned because that’s their lunch break, so they might think they don’t have time to eat, but we only walk for half-an-hour,” she said.
“And if they can’t stay for the second half-hour, they are welcome to take a snack with them.”
Quast indicated some participants have started to use pedometers—and she’s hoping to soon start up a little challenge.
“I’d like to see how many steps people are taking and have a little prize at the end,” she remarked.
“Anything to motivate people to get more active.”
Quast also offers a participant draw prize once a month.
“So the more you come, the more times your name is entered,” she reasoned.
“Walking is good for your overall health,” Quast continued. “I think it fits in with your mental, emotional, physically, and the social aspect of your health.
“All those things go together.
“And exercising with people is a lot easier than going to walk all by yourself,” she noted.
“It makes a big difference when you have someone to chat with.”
For more information on the walking group, or any of the other programs and activities offered locally by the Northwestern Health Unit, call 274-9827.

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