Walk This Way

October 14, 2014

By Lynne Konstantin

Walking — it’s been big since our Australopithecus ancestors began popularizing bipedalism back in the day (4.3 million BCE). For those early hominids, walking may have made hunting and gathering more efficient. But, with basic survival mastered, we modern humans have not only continued the tradition of the upright gait, but turned it into a popular exercise, social activity, way to raise funds and awareness, even a sport. It’s easy to see why.

For starters, walking is convenient. From dense cities, to the suburbs, to rural areas, any able-bodied person anywhere can put one foot in front of the other and — just like that — they’re exercising. Plus it doesn’t require any more gear than a comfortable pair of shoes.

It’s healthy. Don’t let runners allow you to feel inadequate. They may be covering more miles, but they aren’t necessarily healthier than walkers. Walking can be an aerobic exercise if you keep your pace up, but even if you only reach a moderate level for 30 minutes a day, it can improve blood pressure, lower the risk for heart disease, help you maintain weight, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Even more impressive, walking has the lowest dropout rate of all physical activities.

Walking Weather, Michigan Style

Summer often gets all the glory when it comes to outdoor activities — it’s warm, and we get all that extra sunlight. But autumn — with its mild days and cool, sometimes frosty nights — is truly a walker’s delight. The temp puts a jump in your step, the changing leaves give the landscape color and drama and a certain wistful aroma. Plus you sweat far less in October than you do in July.

Those of us in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area are fortunate for a plethora of walkable neighborhoods, parks and trails (see sidebar below). Whether you’re eager to start, or need some gentle nudging, there are plenty of ways to keep it fun, fresh and fit.

Step Right Up

Start a neighborhood walking group. With the dual benefits of fitness and socializing, walking groups have sprouted up all over the country. You can gather people you know in your own area for easy-to-organize jaunts around your shared environs, or branch out to farther flung friends and create a neighborhood rotation schedule. If work and family have you needing some “me” time, make it a solo venture and keep the pace the way you like it, maybe bringing along some music or a podcast for company.

Discover your unknown hometown. Our dependence on cars robs us of opportunities to walk, but it also blinds us to much of our surroundings. How many neighborhoods do you speed past, never knowing what lies beyond the first three houses you see down the street? Why not pick a place on the map, let your automobile get you there, then let your legs take over and see how the land lays? (And maybe check out some garage sales or open houses along the way.) Lake communities can be wonderfully scenic destinations, even in the winter, but almost every little corner of the region has its own charms and atmosphere. Case in point: Explore the grounds at Cranbrook and cap it off with a stop at the Art Museum, Institute of Science or the House and Gardens.

Plan a “meet you there” destination walk. Whether it’s Tuesday evening for some light shop-hopping and a late dinner, a Saturday afternoon coffee in Shain Park or Sunday brunch at Toast or Social, Downtown Birmingham offers dozens of places to meet up with a group of friends. Depending on your starting points, you might enjoy the pleasure of your own company on the way, or go side by side with a buddy or your kids. Not close enough to Birmingham? Drive halfway, and then take a scenic suburb walk into town. Franklin makes for another nice place to converge, and who doesn’t need an excuse to visit the Cider Mill?
Take a Woodward discovery walk. Whether you’re cruising it or just trying to get the kids from point A to point B, you probably take in the sights of Woodward going at least 40 MPH. Why not pick up some friends, pick a two-mile stretch of Woodward, park the car and see what M-1 looks like by foot? You might happen upon a favorite new boutique, find a great used book store, sit down for a hot cup of coffee, discover a park you never noticed or even pick up some produce for dinner.

No matter why you choose to walk or where you choose to go, be sure to admire the fall colors and breathe in the cool, crisp air. We’re lucky to have such a stunning season — and it won’t last forever! NS


Take to the Trails
Trails and pathways throughout Oakland County are great for for hiking with family and friends — it’s a healthy way to spend a few hours and it encourages communication. Enjoy miles of natural, scenic paved trails at Addison Oaks, Groveland Oaks, Highland Oaks, Independence Oaks, Lyon Oaks, Orion Oaks, Rose Oaks and Waterford Oaks. http://www.destinationoakland.com/thingstodo/bikehike/Pages/default.aspx
Walking Apps
Try an app to help you get maximum benefit from your walking routine. Here are just a few:
MapMyWalk enables you to use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities. Record your workout details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map. mapmywalk.com/app
Walkmeter by Abvio uses GPS to measure the distance of your walks. It includes a voice so you can hear replies from Facebook and Twitter to your workout posts while you walk for additional motivation.
It maps your walk, and you can view time, speed, distance and pace as you walk. abvio.com/walkmeter
Every Body Walk! is linked to a public awareness campaign about walking, sponsored by the Kaiser Permanente healthcare organization. You can use your Smartphone GPS to map and measure your walks, share them with friends, find walking routes and find walking clubs. everybodywalk.org

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