Getting outdoors, being physically active and engaging in positive social interactions are just what the doctor would order for supporting health and preventing disease, especially in light of COVID-19. Walking, and being more active in general, boosts our immune system, builds stronger muscles and increases bone density. In addition to improving metabolism and supporting weight management, a daily walking routine can provide immense mental and social benefits. In short, carving out at least 20-30 minutes each day to walk is good medicine! Even better, it’s also free.
Melody Ayers, director of philanthropy and volunteer services at Adventist Health Tillamook, has been working from home since March 17 as part of the hospital’s pandemic response plan. She shares, “While working from home, there are days that I have as many as five video calls with various work groups that are also working remotely. I’ve learned to make time throughout the day to walk on the country road where I live, even if only 5-10 minutes at a time in between meetings, to breath fresh air deep into my lungs, stretch my body, and get my creative thoughts pumping again. I’ve even found an inventive new use for my ever-present cotton face mask: filtering the gnats and small bugs in the air from flying up my nose!”
Walking groups were launched in all three areas of Tillamook County—North, Central, and South—back in 2017, thanks to a grant from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Community Partnership Program. The hospital, Tillamook YMCA, OSU Extension and Tillamook County Wellness came together through this project to promote walking as a vital health activity for Tillamook County. That year, five walking groups with 72 participants facilitated by seven leaders agreed that this was a fun way get physically active and enhance personal wellbeing. In a survey taken at the end of the grant project, walkers reported significant improvements to their health and said that increased social engagement was a great participation benefit.
Fast forward to 2020, and several groups are meeting and walking regularly throughout Tillamook County. Groups are volunteer led and are open to anyone, including drop-ins. It’s worth noting that State guidelines for curbing the spread of COVID-19 currently allow small groups to get together outdoors while following basic safety precautions such as maintaining appropriate distances and wearing a face covering or mask when you can’t maintain a distance of “one cow length apart,” as we’ve been known to say in Tillamook County. For more information about walking groups in Tillamook County, see the Walk Well flyer or contact volunteer coordinator, Nancy Kershaw at email@example.com.
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