One step at a time

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

You put one foot in front of the other every day. Why not put those feet to work improving your health?
It’s easily accessible and there’s no equipment required beyond a good pair of walking shoes. And a safe, welcoming place to walk is as close as a park.
“The benefits of walking are phenomenal,” said Hank Boerner, director of the North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Center and co-chairman of the Mayor’s Healthy Tupelo Task Force.
A regular 30- to 45-minute walking program done four to five days a week, boosts mood and energy levels, Boerner said. Regular walking will lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol levels, lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce blood sugar levels. It can also help people sleep better.
“If you walk daily for 30 to 45 minutes,” it will burn roughly 300 calories, Boerner said. “That may not sound like a lot, but if you do that five days a week and change nothing else … you’ll lose two to three pounds in a month. That’s 25 to 30 pounds in a year just by changing one little thing.”

Beach contest
As if losing weight and feeling better weren’t enough, Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department and the Mayor’s Healthy Tupelo Task Force are sweetening the walking deal with a contest this spring. The big prize is a weekend beach trip.
From March 21 to April 30, walkers can earn tickets toward a raffle for every 30 minutes of walking they log at one of 15 participating parks and walking tracks.
Contest participants can earn an extra ticket each week by interpreting the clues for the park of the week and then logging 30 minutes of walking at that park.
“We wanted to let people know how many different walking trails there are in Tupelo,” Boerner said. “The more you walk, the more active you are; the more you go out to different parks, the better chance you have to win.”
Participants will turn in their logs at an April 30 fun run at Ballard Park and receive their raffle tickets for the beach trip and other prizes. Participants will need to be present to win.
During the same period, children in Tupelo Public Schools will be joining in the Mayor’s Marathon – an effort to walk 26.2 miles. Parents can participate in the Take a Walk in the Park program at the same time, improving the health of the entire family, Boerner said.

Rich resource
The Tupelo parks system has an incredible wealth of walking resources across the city, Boerner said.
“I don’t think people realize how good a park system we have,” Boerner said.
Ballard and Veterans parks have exercise courses along their walking loops, so walkers can incorporate strength training and stretching into their routines.
A number of the walking trails loop around a playground or are located adjacent to them, so parents can get some exercise while the kids get some active play.
Parks and walking trails offer an extra layer of safety from cars. Walkers don’t have to dodge traffic and can keep a more consistent pace, Boerner said.
“The easiest thing for people to do is walk.”

Walking Tips
- Have a buddy. Another person makes walking more fun and helps hold you accountable.

- Check with your physician before starting any exercise regimen.

- Have good, comfortable shoes. The best bet is to use a store that has personnel trained in fitting shoes.

- Dress in layers so you can adjust as your body warms during exercise.

- Drink plenty of fluids – not colas or alcohol – especially as the weather warms up.

- Go at your own pace. Do only as much as you can handle. You should be able to hold a conversation without having to take extra breaths. But you should feel your heart beating harder than it does when you’re window shopping.

- If you haven’t been exercising, start with 10 to 15 minutes of walking and then add 5 minutes a week.

About the contest
- Call Park & Rec office at (662) 841-6440 to register before March 21. At least 20 participants must register for the contest to start.
- Get a log sheet from:

- Park & Rec office, Ballard Park

- NMMC Wellness Center, Tupelo

- www.tupeloparkrec.com

- Visit one of 15 walking tracks. For every 30 minutes of walking, participants will earn 1
ticket. Aim for at least three 30-minute sessions a week.

- Look for clues at area parks designating the park of the week. Walk for 30 minutes at that park to earn an extra ticket.

- Turn in your completed log at the April 30 fun walk at Ballard Park and receive your raffle tickets for the drawings. You must be present to win.

Participating walking tracks, trails
- Ballard Park – 2.75 miles (map at office)

- Ballard Park cross country – 1.2 miles

- Bristow Park – .15 miles

- Gateway Park – 1,780 feet

- GumTree Park – .5 mile

- Gun Club Park – 1 mile

- Hancock Park – .25 mile

- Haven Acres – .15 mile

- Old Mill Town Park – .125 mile

- Rob Leak City Park – .5 mile

- Robins Field/Noble Park – .25 mile

- Theron Nichols Park – .25 mile

- Thomas Street track – .5 mile

- Veterans Park – .5 mile

- Livewell Track NMMC – .5 mile