Tenderloin Walking GroupAugust 17th, 2011
by Lisa Countryman
I haven’t taken a poll recently, but I feel confident that the most popular excuse for not exercising has to be lack of time. People tend to think that if they can’t spare 45-90 minutes a day to exercise, it’s just not worth it. However, current research indicates that even small blocks of time dedicated to some form of physical activity can result in significant health benefits.
British Medical Journal The Lancet published an article this week on the relative health benefits of daily low (15 min. per day), moderate (30 min. per day), and high (45 min per day) volume of exercise. Results showed that even those in the low volume group (exercising an average of 92 minutes per week, or 15 minutes per day) “had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, and had a 3 year longer life expectancy.”
Even low levels of activity, can reduce blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular fitness and overall health. The Walking Group at St. Anthony’s Free Medical Clinic has experienced the benefits of low to moderate intensity exercise first hand. Every Friday at 10:00 a.m. the Walking Group, led by Carolina Flamenco, convenes at the Clinic and heads out for a 60-90 minute walk. These walks provide participants, many of whom are diabetic, not only with much-needed exercise and stress relief, but also with a chance to socialize in a relaxed environment, a chance to get out of the neighborhood and see other parts of the city, and to reconnect with the natural environment in the city’s parks.
During group walks, Carolina engages participants in conversations about their nutritional choices and encourages participants to reflect on how the incorporation of exercise has changed the way they are thinking about food and health. Several of the walkers have noted that because walking makes them feel better and less stressed-out, they are making healthier choices about the food they eat. As a result they have noticed an improvement in their diabetic symptoms. (One participant has lost 25 pounds since joining the Walking Group nine months ago!) On the other hand, some participants have noted that when they miss their walks for a couple of weeks they tend to revert to more convenient, less nourishing meals. Both kinds of experiences can provide valuable information to consider when making daily choices about nutrition and exercise.
As a natural outgrowth of the program, Carolina has incorporated visits to produce markets as a kind of “on-site nutritional counseling” component. Recently, front office supervisor Martha Salazar took the group on a food shopping trip to Mi Tierra in the Mission, which supports the program by providing produce vouchers for regular participants. The Walking Group receives additional sponsorship from Sports Basement in the form of t-shirts and water bottles; plans for tennis shoes are in the works.
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