By Janine Logan
Senior Director of Communications and Population Health
You wouldn’t think that a cold February night would be prime time for a walk in the park, but planners of a Moonlight Walk at Heckscher State Park in East Islip had other ideas. A handful of us, including me, braved the cold on Friday, February 10, 2017 for an evening Moonlight Walk. A few clouds obscured the brightly glowing full snow moon, but that didn’t matter because there was just enough light to make the snow covered fields sparkle.
We walked about two miles, stopping along the way to view animal tracks in the snow, including deer, squirrel, and rabbit. There is a different perspective to the landscape when you walk in the dark. Somehow, the quiet is more pronounced. Your senses are more in tune.
The pace was a bit slow for my liking, but I reminded myself that walking at any rate is still exercise. If it counts on my FitBit, it counts for me. That’s the beauty of walking – no matter how fast or slow you go there are still health benefits.
The health benefits of walking are especially significant for older adults. A variety of studies confirm that a regular program of exercise, such as walking, helps older adults whose ability to move about is diminished. The LIFE Study Randomized Trial concluded that a structured physical activity program can help prevent movement disability among older adults. And a follow-up to this study revealed that such a program benefits older adults who are recovering from a mobility deficit, for instance, after a fall or hip replacement. Researchers say physical activity has extraordinary benefits and also helps lower an individual’s risk for heart disease, memory and thought impairment, diabetes, depression, and even some cancers.
Not bad benefits for a simple walk in the park.
The good news is that Long Island is rich with county and state parklands, walking paths, and other areas to simply get out and walk. Even a neighborhood provides an opportunity to walk about. Then, of course, there are treadmills for home use and also local gyms. The Long Island Health Collaborative keeps a list of walking events and places to get out and exercise.
Older adults can check out resources at the National Council on Aging. Silver Sneakers is a fitness program offered by many health insurers. On Long Island some local malls open up early for walking.
My Moonlight Walk in the park left me feeling invigorated. My mind was certainly clearer after this dose of physical activity and fresh winter air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 28 percent of adults aged 50 and older get no exercise beyond daily life activities. I am trying my hardest to ensure I am not part of that statistic.