I get fit with a little help from my friends

Get farther walking by making it social

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 8, 2017

 Lakeside Mall launched a walking initiative in 2014 to give seniors a warm and welcoming place to get some low-impact exercise. The American Heart Association says that walking is good exercise for participants with a range of health levels, including those with chronic injuries and heart disease.

Lakeside Mall launched a walking initiative in 2014 to give seniors a warm and welcoming place to get some low-impact exercise. The American Heart Association says that walking is good exercise for participants with a range of health levels, including those with chronic injuries and heart disease.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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METRO DETROIT — Walking by yourself is exercise. Walking with a friend is catching up.

Your body doesn’t know the difference, but your mind probably does. The American Heart Association says walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity, and the low-impact exercise is a great way to get fit for just about anyone, including those with orthopedic ailments, heart conditions or obesity. 

But sometimes the facts aren’t enough of a motivator. Getting up and moving can be a little bit easier when you’ve got some company by your side. 

Nancy Greer knows that to be true. She’s the retail store director of Michigan-based Gazelle Sports. The chain, which has a newer location in Birmingham, promotes movement however customers see fit. The store hosts walking groups for people with various social interests.

“We have the Urban Herd group, which is a weekly 4-mile fun run or walk that’s meant to bring the community together,” said Greer. “On March 2, that group will be doing a Pub Run, with 2- and 4-mile routes that start and end at our Birmingham store, and then takes us over to Dick O’Dow’s.”

The Pub Run will give participants a chance to get a little exercise and, later, kick back with some beers, snacks and raffles at a local watering hole. Greer said both parts of the event — the workout and the drinking — promote socializing and incentives to return to the group for another week of movement.

Working off that same premise, Gazelle’s downtown Birmingham location launched its newest walking group this week with Moms on the Move. The stroller-friendly event welcomes moms by themselves or with their little ones to get the day started with a little exercise and networking every Wednesday at 9 a.m. No advance registration is required for either group.

“I think it’s proven, in particular with women, that people like to do activities with other people. We’re very social beings. It’s hard to get motivated to do it on your own. But if you set a goal, like doing your first 5K or just getting off the couch, it’s easier to do when you have a partner or a friend. This allows you to make a friend and be a part of something that meets regularly, and you can come as (often as) you would like.”

Beaumont Health System is a big believer in support for success when it comes to new fitness initiatives. Several of the hospital’s locations host walking groups that promote socializing, and sometimes a little learning too.

“Our Walk with a Doc program is kind of a win-win situation. It’s a program we advertise to the community to come out, hear a short health-focused presentation from a doctor on a relevant topic, and then we have that physician walk with the participants and continue that conversation,” said Peggy Kurza, of the Beaumont Health and Fitness Center in St. Clair Shores.

Kurza’s branch of Walk with a Doc meets at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate in Grosse Pointe Shores around four times a year. Participants can get their blood pressure checked, enjoy healthy snacks, peruse some health-themed literature and event fliers, and then listen to a half-hour talk from a Beaumont doctor. Then everyone straps on their sneakers for a loop around the Ford estate grounds — or as far as they’d like to go, since Kurza said the events are favored by seniors.

“A lot of older people want to walk in a group. They don’t want to walk alone, so this Walk with a Doc program or the new walking program we’re working on starting in St. Clair Shores allows more people to come to a specific location and walk together, and I’ve found it motivates people more than just saying, ‘Here, walk more on your own and report back your miles,’” Kurza said, adding that participants also enjoy being able to talk to a doctor in a more relaxed, less rushed environment than the typical office visit allows.

For more information on Walk with a Doc, visit walkwithadoc.org or beaumont.edu.

To learn more about Gazelle Sports, visit gazellesports.com.

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