Make strides for health
Eleanor Large doubted she would be much help when in 2003 she was recruited to be a member of the Linwood walking club.
At that time, she was overweight, battling diabetes and entrenched in a sedentary lifestyle, the rural Linwood woman said. But she agreed to become a member of the Linwood Family and Community Education unit’s Walk Kansas program, which has team members walking and logging contributions toward the 423 miles it would take to cross the state from east to west in eight weeks.
“I said I’d try,” Large said. “My husband marked off a path around the barn. Six times around was quarter mile. I had some stones I’d throw in a pile when I completed a lap. When I finished one and threw a stone in the pile, it felt really good. I kept going on.”
Large said she found the walks blissful as she listened to a cassette of Christian music and communed with God. She was walking 2 miles a day three times a week by the end of the eight weeks.
“I lost 30 pounds and got off most the diabetes medicine I was taking,” she said. “It makes a big difference in your mental state, too. By the time you’re done, you say, ‘Oh, I feel good now.’
“I got to where it was just my time, walking with God and de-stressing.”
From that start, she went on to lose another 35 pounds, Large said.
Denise Sullivan, Leavenworth County K-State Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, said Large was one of the success stories of the program, which will mark its 10th year this spring. But, she said all benefit from participating in the annual shaking of the winter rust by getting at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise each week for the eight-week program in March and April.
To further encourage healthy lifestyles, team member receive a weekly newsletter with dietary hints, recipes for proper nutrition, stress management tips and other advice for healthy living.
“The idea is to encourage people to get up and get moving,” Sullivan said. “The goal is teams of six to accommodate the mileage.
“It’s really a fun thing to get intergenerational involvement to get people off the couch and in front of the TV and into lifetime fitness.”
Team members can walk solo, as Large did, or with other members, Sullivan said. They are asked to log their miles and the fruit and vegetables they eat during the eight weeks. But she said the shared challenge and accountability of logging miles helps motivate participants.
This year, Walk Kansas is adding a second category for those who find sharing in walking across the state isn’t enough, Sullivan said.
“The new challenge is to walk the perimeter of the state or 1,200 miles,” she said. “It’s going to be about six hours per week per person.”
This year’s event will kick off with a rally at 9:30 a.m. March 12 at Landing Park near the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth, Sullivan said. T-Shirts and other prizes will be available.
More information of that event, team captain and individual applications forms as well as other information on Walk Kansas can be found at the Leavenworth County Extension Web site http://www.leavenworth.ksu.edu.
Large became an advocate of walking through promotion and example, Her sisters started a walking circle after seeing the improvements she made, she said.
Still, Large hasn’t participated in Walk Kansas in recent years. She lost her husband, Gary, and underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery, which led to a staph infection. Large doesn’t know if she could have avoided the heart problems that run deep in her family had she started a walking regime earlier in life but does think she could have mitigated her problems.
“Maybe I could have had one bypass instead of four,” she said.
Her health has improved and with last week’s thaw Large is ready to recommit to the Walk Kansas challenge.
“I’m going full steam this year — the full 2 miles a day,” she said. “It’s not like I have anybody standing over me with a whip saying ‘get on girl,’ but I’m really looking forward to it.”