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Adults, children walk local path for National Start! Walking Day

By Staff | Apr 9, 2009

Cape Coral residents and children participated Wednesday in National Start! Walking Day, hosted by the American Heart Association, at Joe Stonis Park.
For the national campaign the American Heart Association and city officials designated a 0.6-mile walking path at the park. Moments later a crowd of nearly 100 people walked the path for 30 minutes to promote living a healthy lifestyle.
“We are trying to encourage all Americans to take their heart for a walk,” said Regan Goldberg, vice president of the American Heart Association’s Southwest Florida operations. “We are setting the example nationwide.”
Two dozen residents and representatives from Lee Memorial Health System, adorned in green shirts to commemorate spring, were joined by 80 children on spring break with Cape Coral Parks and Recreation’s Schools Out Program.
Three retired players from the National Football League also participated in the event.
Rick Upchurch, a former Denver Bronco’s wide receiver, addressed the crowd on the importance of fitness and nutrition. He currently works with children to stress proper nutrition, and told parents they need to ensure that children are being healthy.
“Parents, you are the ones that make them right,” said Upchurch. “We have got to put the right nutrition in our body.”
LMHS organized the designation of the path with the American Heart Association. Sally Jackson, community projects director, said it is important for families to begin living healthy lifestyles when children are young.
According to the association, walking 30 minutes every day vastly decreases a person’s chances of developing heart disease or diabetes. Adults should get at least 2.5 hours worth of moderate physical activity each week.
A study from Harvard Medical School reported that for every hour a person walks, they increase their life expectancy by two hours.
Recently, LMHS was recognized as a Fit Friendly company by the American Heart Association for encouraging employees to quit smoking or undergo weight loss counseling.
Jackson said any company can apply to be Fit Friendly. She recommends that other Lee County businesses try to get recognized.
Jackson and other officials from LMHS said it is easy for residents to exercise by walking.
“Anyone can choose to walk, it doesn’t take investments in equipment,” she said.
Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, medical director of the Cape Coral Wellness Center and Lee Physician Group, said regular exercise is important regardless of whether health problems exist.
“Walking is great, we try to get a lot of the population to do it,” he said. “Older people should do aerobic exercise and lift light weights. This day in age if you can’t afford to do that (weight training), than just get out and walk.”
There are approximately 3,800 members at the Wellness Center and the average age is 50, said Lacagnina.
It costs $33 per month to join.
“Obviously we always want more,” he said.
There are 450 other cities across the United States that designated a walking path and had residents walk for 30 minutes for National Start! Walking Day.
Locally, the American Heart Association designated paths at City Pier in downtown Fort Myers, Lakes Park in South Fort Myers and Cambier Park in Naples.