LEE ANNE GRACE: Good shoes, safe places provide inspiration for walking program

LEE ANN GRACE

LEE ANN GRACE

Fall is the perfect time to start a walking program. The temperature is cooler and the scenery of the changing leaves can be absolutely breathtaking.

The health benefits of walking daily have been well-documented. Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In addition to promoting heart health, walking can lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar, lower total cholesterol, reduce depression and help reduce weight and body fat.

Walking is one of the most popular ways to stay fit. It’s inexpensive and can be done almost anywhere. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a bit of motivation.

If the shoe fits

When shopping for a new pair of shoes for fitness walking:

• Shop late in the day, as feet tend to get slightly larger as the day progresses.

• Wear the same type of socks you wear when walking.

• Put on both shoes and walk around the store to check for comfort.

• You can’t go wrong purchasing your shoes from a local store that specializes in fitting athletic shoes. One store I can highly recommend in Tupelo is Trails and Treads on McCullough Boulevard.

Where to walk

Once you have a pair of walking shoes, finding a good place to walk is the next step.

The possibilities for places to walk in the Tupelo area are numerous. Here are some of my favorite locations:

• Veterans Park in East Tupelo. The walking areas are paved and the terrain is relatively flat.

• Ballard Park in West Tupelo. The walking areas are shaded and the terrain is a bit more hilly than Veterans Park. In addition to the paved walking areas that wind through the main park, there is a one-mile-long trail on the park’s southern edge.

• Gum Tree Park on Front Street in downtown Tupelo.

• The walking track on the campus of North Mississippi Medical Center.

• Chickasaw Trails off the Natchez Trace. Park at Chickasaw Village to access one point of entry for the trails. There is also another good entry point across from the visitor’s center. Part of the trail is closed due to construction on Coley Road Extension

• Tanglefoot Trail. If you haven’t been to this newly opened trail that is part of the Rails to Trails conversion, now would be a great time to experience. it. Tanglefoot Trail runs from New Albany to Houston, and can easily be accessed in downtown Pontotoc. Closed to all motorized traffic, the 43.6-mile Tanglefoot Trail is the perfect setting to walk, run or ride your bike. For more information, go to www.tanglefoottrail.com.

If you have a smart phone, you can download the free app “Walk With Map My Walk.” The app turns your phone into a pedometer, keeps track of number of calories burned, pace, distance walked. There is also a GPS function that tracks where you walked. You also have the option of uploading your completed walks to Facebook or Twitter. Now that you have great weather, information about how to purchase shoes and a list of locations to walk, all that’s needed is a bit of motivation. Even if you haven’t been physically active for years, it’s never too late to start. Check in with your doctor, then lace up your shoes and head out the door to a new adventure.

Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss. She is the mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.