Walking is one of the easiest ways to exercise and one of the best. (File photo)
When the kids at the five playground sites administered through Kingsport Parks and Recreation’s summer program totaled all the miles they walked this summer, they had accumulated enough miles to walk to Europe and back — if it were possible to walk to Europe.
It was an initiative the kids at V.O. Dobbins Community Center, Lynn View Community Center, Lincoln and Roosevelt elementary schools, and Lee Apartments hated at first, said Chassy Smiley, Recreation Centers Program Coordinator. But as the walking program — created in coordination with Kingsport Tomorrow, which held its own grant-funded walking program this summer — became routine, they began to enjoy it.
“The kids really liked it. We bought each site a pedometer to track their steps — times how many kids — and they really got into it,” Smiley said.
When the summer program ended in July, Parks and Rec created PIT (Parents, Infants, Toddlers) Stop, an opportunity for parents with young children to walk indoors at V.O. Dobbins.
“A lot of young moms have kids in strollers and in the wintertime, they may not have the opportunity to go out, chat with each other, use the Greenbelt,” she said.
From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., every Tuesday and Thursday, moms (or dads) can bring their toddlers and infants to the gym. Toddlers have access to a confined play area, while parents and infants can stroll.
“If we can get people interested, we would like to do it at Lynn View and other parks and recreation locations. The whole point is getting people to know about it. PIT Stop also uses pedometers,” she said. “You can ask in the office and we’ll let you use one. They measure frequency, intensity and time. You can get an idea of what you’re doing.”
Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise, said Ernie Dickson a physical therapist for Holston Medical Group.
“It’s something you have access to. You don’t have to have any special equipment except good walking shoes and comfortable clothing,” he said. “Research shows walking has the highest compliance rate of exercise and a lot of times with any exercise program, it’s just being consistent.”
Dickson said the great thing about walking is everybody can find time each day to walk, even if its just 10 or 15 minutes.
“It’s one of the best activities that we can do. Walking helps you maintain a healthy weight, which we all like to maintain and is hard to do especially during the holiday season. It also helps manage heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure. It helps lift your mood, helps improve your balance and coordination just to get out and move,” he said. “It’s cumulative. If you have five minutes, do it, then come back and do another five minutes. You don’t have to have a constant 30 minutes or 40 minutes. It’s nice if you do, but if you nickel and dime five minutes here, 10 minutes there, you still get the benefits of it.”
Dickson recommends starting slow and easy when beginning a walking program.
“The main thing is to make it fun. If you make it too much of a chore, its like a job and you’re not going to do it. Make it fun. Start out walking 10 minutes, then turn around and come back, and that will give you 20 minutes to start with. Walk at a pace you feel comfortable with. Do it five or seven days a week, maybe add five minutes to your walk the next week, and keep adding that five minutes each week,” he said. “It’s good idea, when you start, to make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after. During the winter we tend to not want to drink as much ... you still need that water and it makes a big difference.”
Dickson also recommends incorporating warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after your walk.
“End the walk with a slower, cool-down pace and then stretch a bit. Stretching keeps you from having overuse injuries,” he said. “Keep it simple and make it fun, then you’ll tend to do it more. If you make it too hard, it’s hard to stick with it. The key is consistency, coming back and doing it day after day. That’s where you reap the benefits of it.”
This summer, Kingsport Tomorrow hosted “Walking — The Prescription to Better Health,” which included the eight-week challenge “Let’s Move Kingsport!” and two Fun Fest walks. “Let’s Move Kingsport!” encouraged participants to commit to walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week, during that eight-week period.
According to America’s Health Rankings, more than one-third of children in Tennessee are overweight, and the Bristol/Kingsport metropolitan area is ranked the 10th most overweight metropolitan region in the United States.
Next up for Kingsport Parks and Recreation is Fit Step, which will also be offered at V.O. Dobbins, Smiley said.
“It’s a low-impact walking thing that will utilize equipment like a bench, walls and steps in the gym. It gets you moving, walking and doing some stuff. Everything that we do is very inexpensive. It’s free or maybe costs a dollar. This is for anybody,” she said.
“I think what people don’t realize is when you’re walking, you’re getting a lot more healthy benefits. It doesn’t have to be pounding on your body. You don’t end the workout saying you’re exhausted,” she said. “By taking 10,000 steps over the course of a day, it’s roughly equivalent to a 30-minute moderate exercise. That’s a figure most people don’t think about in their everyday lives. That’s why the big push for the pedometers. Not to mention, walking is one of the simplest and safest exercises to burn calories.”