Family Fun Walks Encourage Community Fitness

For those new to exercise, developing a workout routine can seem intimidating. The good news is that getting healthier really can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. That’s why the 1 Million Healthy Steps campaign was developed to encourage people to adopt walking as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Launched in April, the campaign was developed by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department as part of Minority Health Month. Local organizations including ProMedica and the City of Toledo Fire and Rescue Department have joined the movement to conduct walking programs throughout the community.

As part of the First Fridays at The Flower Market, members of the community are invited the first Friday of each month for health screenings, healthy snacks and a cooking demonstration by a dietitian, starting at 2 p.m. At 4 p.m., a ProMedica Physician leads a half-hour Family Fun Walk around ProMedica Toledo Hospital and Ottawa Park.

Michelle Boose, MD, a ProMedica Physician specializing in family medicine, is one of the leaders of the Family Fun Walk and shares the impact that exercise can have on a person’s health: “Research shows that regular exercise can improve so many health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, arthritis, and osteoporosis. It can also help with balance, flexibility, decreasing your risk of falling, getting better sleep, and getting sick less often.”

The recommended amount of exercise for adults is 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week, as well as muscle strengthening two days per week, explains Dr. Boose. The great news is that you can break this workout time into smaller segments that are easier to fit into your schedule. Just be sure to do at least 10 minutes at a time to experience the health benefits.

With just the right shoes and comfortable clothing, walking is a simple exercise that can be done anywhere – at the park or even at the mall on a rainy day. And while it’s perfect for beginners, experienced walkers can also make the workout more challenging. “Incorporating variety into your walking program will help combat muscle memory so you are still getting a great workout each time. Adding weights, walking hills, or alternating fast and slower intervals during your walk will all help your body work harder,” says Dr. Boose.

One of the best things about walking is the sense of community it creates. “Walking is kind of a one-size-fits-all exercise,” says Dr. Boose. “It can bring together people with various health issues, of different ages and of different cultures. And, when you walk with others regularly, you become accountable to each other and it keeps you motivated. That’s what makes it a lifestyle change.”

First Fridays at The Flower Market and the Family Fun Walk are free, but those interested in participating in 1 Million Healthy Steps can “buy-in” for $5, and will receive a basic health screening (optional), a toolkit (also available online for free), a T-shirt and a colored wrist band for every 250,000 steps they take – and, once they reach 1 million steps, their $5 will be returned to them.