Walking at North Lakes in 2021

Walking with others has benefits. The Harvard Health blog’s analysis confirms that people who participate in a walking group tend to keep exercising and not slack off.

In a journey to find the best techniques for getting back to a better place both physically and mentally, I have been reaping the benefits of walking with others!

I recently accepted this position as the Denton County Better Living for Texans Extension Agent with Texas A&M AgriLife, and my job is to educate people of all ages who are Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants and SNAP eligible. I have the privilege of teaching participants how to make nutritious easy-to-cook meals, get moving with their physical fitness, save more money while grocery shopping, grow their fruits and vegetables, and help others adopt better food safety habits.

Here at Better Living for Texans, we offer so many awesome programs that help facilitate those concepts. The Walk N Talk program has been pushing me to reach my fitness goals and beat the bathing suit blues.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that being part of an outdoor walking group can improve health and physical functioning while helping lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, total cholesterol, body weight, body fat and risk of depression.

My only regret is not starting this program sooner. In all transparency, like many others, the pandemic and life are strewn together, resulting in me putting on some extra pounds that I am determined to get back off.

I know there are benefits to walking, but I believe there are even more when you walk with others. So, that is why programs like the Walk N Talk have been so vital to my success. It is an eight-week program, offered to both youth and adults, with a goal to walk 832 miles — the distance across Texas — as a team.

Weekly, participants meet at a park or other previously determined location, like a library or recreation center, and we walk for about 25-30 minutes. Afterward, we gather to share a delicious fruit or vegetable treat and some wholesome snacks while I discuss the fruit or vegetable’s health advantages.

Whether you are a fast walker or a take-your-time kind of person, walking with others makes you more likely to make it a part of your everyday routine. It is a lot easier to blow off a walk when it is just yourself you must worry about. The chances of you canceling are decreased when there is already a set plan to meet up and walk. In the Harvard Health blog, a meta-analysis of over 42 studies confirms that people who participate in a walking group tend to keep exercising and not slack off.

Who knows? You might meet a friend or two in the process of getting your walk on. Friends are going to encourage and motivate you when you need an extra push or could walk a little faster. I find myself walking even faster to keep up with some of the other walkers. Being of short stature, I always feel so proud of myself afterward for keeping up with them.

Walking by myself can feel more like a chore, and I often watch the clock count down every minute until I am done. When I walk with my new friends, I find myself not wanting the walk to end each time. I am always surprised by how much fun I truly had and how fast time passed us by.

It is a great opportunity to get to know others and their stories in your community. One of my participants is 84 years old, and she outwalks me on my best day! Walking with others makes the walks more interesting and enjoyable. It is so special to see the genuine joy and laughter watching everyone around me on these walks. We are always sharing ideas, healthy tips and recipes and community happenings.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this program is the bond I feel I build with each participant. After weeks of walking together, you begin to build relationships. With the busy lives we all lead, it is so nice to connect with others in such a positive way. Today is a perfect day to start reaping the reward of walking together.

If you would like, to join us for one of these Walk N Talks or find out about our other programs reach out to me at dusty.fife@ag.tamu.edu or call 940-349-2882.

DUSTY FIFE is the Better Living for Texans agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Denton County.

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