Butte-Silver Bow Health Department

The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is located at 25 W. Front St.

'Tis a new year, and the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is hoping you have your own wellness, well-being, and fitness in mind.

And boy, do we have a deal for you! All we're asking is for you to put your best foot forward!

The Health Department will conduct a free six-week walking program beginning Monday, Jan. 8. Our Walk with Ease program, designed for people of all ages and abilities, will begin at 9 a.m. at the Butte Plaza Mall (meet in the mall's center lobby area). The program will be held at 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through Feb. 15.

Developed by the Arthritis Foundation, Walk with Ease is shown to improve health and, for those with pain issues, reduce pain. The program provides techniques to build and maintain a successful walking program — how to walk safely and comfortably; create a fitness program tailor-made for you; improve flexibility, strength, and stamina; fight the "I don't want to exercise" blues; follow simple warm-up and cool down stretches; keep track of progress with a walking diary; motivate yourself to get in great shape; and — get this — feel great!

"I'm so glad that I started walking," said one Walk with Ease participant, cited in a book distributed to program participants. "I've been walking for a couple of years, and I find it to be good for everything. It lowers my blood pressure, my back is better, my glucose level is better. It simply improves everything."

The same book relays some things that walking can do for you — strengthen the heart and lungs, nourish the joints, build bones, fight osteoporosis, burn calories, control weight, reduce stress, improve mood, and boost energy.

Our Walk with Ease program coordinators, Theresa Dennehy and Lori Stenson, recommend that program participants have shoes that are up to date. "Make sure your shoes fit well," Dennehy said recently, adding that the right socks — socks that will keep your feet cool and dry — are also very important.

Stenson said participants should choose clothing that allows for free movement with lightweight, absorbent material. When establishing a walking program, bright, reflective clothing is recommended.

Some other items to consider: a watch with a second hand or a stopwatch to measure minutes of walking; a fitness monitor or pedometer to measures steps (a mile is about 2,000 steps); a walking stick or cane for balance, if needed; and a fanny pack or small backpack to carry items such as keys, identification, phone, or money. Carrying a plastic water bottle in hand or in your backpack is recommended.

Dennehy and Stenson conduct a basic five-step walking program that lasts less than an hour — a five-minute warm-up, five minutes of stretching, a walk of five to 30 minutes or more (depending on individual ability), a five-minute cool-down, and seven to nine minutes of stretching.

The Walk with Ease book issued to participants has this to say about walking and making a commitment to routine exercise: "Keep telling yourself 'I can do this.' It's only 30 minutes of walking a day, at least five days a week, to make your joints, bones, muscles and heart fitter and healthier. That's less than two hours out of the entire 168 hours in a week. For the remaining hours in the week, you'll feel better, experience less pain, have more energy, be stronger, and have a brighter emotional outlook as a result of the time you've spent walking."

Due to winter weather, the Walk with Ease class beginning Monday will occur at the mall. Past classes have been held at Father Sheehan Park and other outdoor venues, and future classes will also be held outside, when weather allows.

To learn more about the Walk with Ease program, contact Dennehy at 497-5085 or tdennehy@bsb.mt.gov or Stenson at 497-5025 or lstenson@bsb.mt.gov.

Happy new year, and happy walking!

Karen Sullivan is Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer and Director of the Health Department. Her column, The Public's Health, appears weekly on The Montana Standard's health page.

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