Walk Indoors and Stay Fit This Winter

HYANNIS – Last summer, Cape Cod Healthcare and Cape Cod National Seashore launched the Healthy Parks, Healthy People program to get people miler makerwalking towards better health. That initiative continues this winter with a partnership with Cape Cod Mall in a new Mall Walking Program, which began January 19 and will last through mid-June, when the summer program resumes at the Seashore.

“Basically we’re doing the same thing with the winter mall program as we did for our summertime program,” said Cape Cod Healthcare physical trainer Danny O’Keefe, ATC, TPI.

O’Keefe will be at the Cape Cod Healthcare kiosk in the mall Food Court Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 until 11 a.m. Visit him to have your biometric screenings such as blood pressure, height, weight, BMI and body fat. A free passport booklet is available at the kiosk to track the date and the distance of your walks.

The mall walk is self-guided. There are no formal group walks planned, although O’Keefe said there are many pre-existing groups of people who come to the mall to walk. One recent morning, three West Yarmouth friends stopped by to get their blood pressure checked after their walk. Former golf course superintendent Roy Mackintosh said he walks at the mall because he likes to keep active. Meanwhile, Roger Shalhoub and Bill Cullen compared the steps they recorded on their iPhone’s health app. Shalhoub had walked 4,243 steps, or 1.65 miles, that day compared to Cullen’s 4,048 steps, or 1.5  miles.

When asked why they walk the mall, Shalhoub said he is trying to lose weight, while Cullen said he does it to control his type 2 diabetes. The peer pressure and the good-natured ribbing among his friends is very motivating, added Cullen.

The Healthy Parks, Healthy People booklet estimates that most people take anywhere from 900 to 3,000 steps just doing their normal activities each day. The program is designed to get people closer to the 10,000 steps recommended by the Surgeon General for heart health.

“The problem is a lot of people haven’t built that mentality into their daily lives yet,” O’Keefe said. “You don’t have to run marathons. Just keep moving. For the five days a week that we’re at work, most of us are not very active.

“It’s not just the cardiovascular aspect of sitting all day, but the effect that it has on your muscular system. It just wrecks your hips and your back and your posture. If you sit all the time, it doesn’t take a long time for those things to get out of alignment and really have a negative effect on the way you move.”

Before this writer started my own mall walk recently, O’Keefe checked my stats with an Omron fat loss monitor. He typed in my height, weight, age and gender and then instructed me to hold it like a steering wheel out in front of me with straight arms. In just a few seconds he had both my BMI and percentage of body fat.

The start and finish of the mall walk is in the corner of the food court by Best Buy. If you walk the perimeter of the entire mall, including the breakoffs, it is a .9-mile walk. That is true no matter where you start, but if you start at the beginning, there is a mile marker on the ground every tenth of a mile so you can track your progress and speed. A little after 8 a.m. on recent morning, a large number of individuals, couples and groups were already taking the walk.

Music at stores like Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Bodyworks and Mikey Mikes made me step a little lighter, but other than that, the mall was pretty quiet because most of the stores were closed. Six people sipped coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and an employee was methodically kneading dough at Regina Pizzeria. Four sparrows trapped in the food court were up in the rafters twittering and trying to escape through the sky lights.

The entire course took about 15 minutes and netted 1,850 steps according to my Fitbit. That means you would need to walk the mall perimeter 5.4 times to get up to 10,000 steps. I stopped back to check in with O’Keefe.

“Most of the hard core folks in here do five or six laps,” he confirmed.

By LAURIE HIGGINS, OneCape Health News

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