If the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, one local walking group is proof that walking a few miles each day can go a long way – literally.
In 1990, Mary Beth Begley and Jane Truelove of Gainesville started walking together. Over the next few years, their weekday morning walks grew to include seven women. Sixteen years later, they’re still meeting each morning and starting their days with a 3 to 4 mile brisk walk, which takes about an hour.
Studies consistently show that walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, walking just 30 minutes has been shown to:
- Reduce risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile
- Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
- Enhance mental well-being
- Reduce risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce risk of breast and colon cancer
- Reduce risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
While using a steamer on new clothing arrivals at The Crystal Plate, the shop she owns in downtown Gainesville, Mary Beth describes a group of women with common interests who don’t just emphasize healthy lifestyles from regular exercise to healthy eating habits, but who truly enjoy each other’s company.
“We solve the world’s problems and we solve each other’s problems,” she says.
In addition to Begley and Truelove, members of the group include Carolyn Brinson, Cathy Nix, Jane Lake, Jamie Stribling and Shanna Cronic. Some are former runners, others have always enjoyed walking.
“We say we’re going to walk until we can’t,” Mary Beth said.
Ranging in age from 56 to 69, the “girlfriends” not only enjoy walking as a group, but they have been known to gather for dinner and take trips together. Over the years they’ve supported each other through illnesses, deaths and divorces, and celebrated milestones like children getting married or grandchildren being born.
Through it all, they keep walking.
“We may not go as fast as we once did, but we can still get out there and walk,” Mary Beth says. “We’ve been through a lot of shoes and a lot of miles.”
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