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Walking for fun can change your life

Walking for fun can change your life

By ROBERT NAPPERrnapper@bradenton.com

When Nancy Brining topped out at more than 300 pounds and doctors diagnosed her with diabetes, she knew her life was on the line. Just a few steps made her breathless. But she made up her mind to take them anyway. Her life depended on it. Now with a weekly walking club, she remembers those difficult days. "I could barely walk across this parking lot without being totally out of breath. But I kept going a little farther each time," she said. Brining has gone from struggling through a few footsteps to losing 120 pounds and walking half-marathons of more than 13 miles. "My life has totally changed," she said. It is the kind of story Steve and Sharon Litschauer, owners of On A Shoestring, a Bradenton shoe store for walkers and runners, not only love to hear but can relate to. The Litschauers will celebrate their third year as owners of the shop next month. It is not only how Steve Litschauer makes a living, but it has helped him live a healthier lifestyle. Two years ago, he reached 315 pounds and changed his life by walking. A hundred pounds lighter, he has founded a walking group, called Walking For Fun, that meets at 6 p.m. Mondays in front of their shop, at 3633 Cortez Road, in the College Plaza. He and his wife wanted to provide people with companionship and a healthier lifestyle by starting the club. "It is really our goal to get people out and living a more active life," said Sharon, who is also a nurse practitioner at Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. Walking not only provides a more active lifestyle but its health benefits are plentiful. A consistent walking regimen can reduce risk of heart attack, manage blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing diabetes and manage existing cases of diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic's Web site. It is also a proven way to lose weight and reduce stress, the Web site said. For seniors, studies show walking also helps protect against hip fracture, relieve arthritis, reduce back pain, as well as strengthen muscles, bones and joints, according to the AARP. At times, more than two dozen walkers come to stroll with the club. Some walk more than 2 miles, some a mile, some a couple of times around the parking lot. "We have people that are gazelles, and some people who don't go as fast," said Steven. "That's what is great about our club is you can go at your own pace and walk as far as you want. We make sure that no one is left alone." That is something that Lou Ann Mossholder likes most about the club. "I don't like to walk alone, but I really like walking," she said as she strolled around the College Plaza parking lot. "I breathe better when I walk." Experts recommend beginners looking to benefit from a walking program walk at least three times a week beginning with a brisk 20-minute regimen, then adding five minutes to each walk every two weeks, according to Litschauer. For Brining, walking for fun is now a major force in her life. "I really fell in love with walking," she said. For more information on the walking club, call On A Shoestring at 782-7023, or log onto www.onashoestringinc.com.

Safety tips for walkers at a glance: — Face traffic: If your walking routes do not have bike paths or sidewalks and you are forced to walk on the road, always walk in the direction of oncoming traffic. — Dress correctly: If you are walking at night or early in the morning, dress to be seen. Wear light-colored or reflective clothing like shocking-pink or brilliant orange. Avoid blue, black or navy clothing. — Never walk alone: If at all possible, walk with a training partner. In the absence of a training companion, always tell someone which route you will be walking and what time you expect to return. — Walk defensively: Don't assume that all road-users know about the pedestrian has right-of-way rule.— Lose the jewelry: Leave the valuables at home. The only accessories you need is a wristwatch with a stopwatch function. — Vary your routes: Don't establish regular patterns by walking the same route at the same time every day. Keep one step ahead of any would-be muggers by randomly varying your routes and the times you go out. — Self-defense: Some people carry hand-held spray devices that contain mace of something similar. — Carry ID: Always carry some form of identification in case of an accident or medical emergency. If you are away from home on holiday or business, make a note of the address where you are staying. — Keep right: If you are walking on a cycling or pedestrian path, always walk on the right side so that faster walkers, runners and cyclists can easily pass.— Leave the headphones at home: This will allow you to stay alert and aware of your surroundings and potential dangers.

SOURCE: Terry Mackintosh, Runner's World magazine.

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