Friendship, fitness and fun sum up the mission set forth by the Menehune Marchers, one of the American Volkssport Association clubs.
Marsha Okada can attest to that. She has walked in all 50 states and made lots of new friends in the process. She joined the club in 1987 and by 1999 had set foot in every state.
"It took me 12 years. Nowadays I’m slowing down but I’m not giving up," she said. "My favorite was walking on top of Crazy Horse in South Dakota."
Okada continues to do local walks and regularly logs her mileage. "It’s helped improve my health and fitness. It’s fun because sometimes I act as a guide for visitors and walk with club members, too," she said.
The club provides a gathering place for members to associate with others who are interested in maintaining fitness through noncompetitive walking. Numerous year-round walks, typically 10Ks, are held in eight neighborhoods on Oahu from Manoa to Laie and two on the Big Island. On the mainland more than 1,100 year-round walks have been established by local clubs for people to enjoy at their leisure. Maps are available for club members.
Menehune Marchers has 57 members. Membership dues are $15 for the first year and $12 for annual renewals.
"For a lot of people, walking is their primary form of exercise," said club president Carol Romig. "It fits in with traveling. They incorporate Volkssport into their travel plans."
For example, Walking Adventures International, a company that believes traveling and walking go hand in hand, takes people on walking trips all over the world, Romig said. "Periodically we have conventions that sponsor walks. The next one is in Iowa," she said. "It’s really a social thing. People can walk at their own pace and enjoy scenic locations."
Romig also has experienced the health benefits of walking. "It’s improved my fitness level lots. Last year I walked the Honolulu Marathon."
Anyone can participate, but the average age of club members is between 60 and 70. Many members have been walking for 20 to 30 years.
"We even have a couple of members in their 80s," Romig said.
Get out and get moving!
Getting in a few extra steps a day can improve your health and well-being. Dennis Kaaihue, health educator at Kaiser Permanente, explained the HMO’s 10,000 Steps program is designed to get people moving toward a healthier lifestyle.
"Two thousand steps is equivalent to approximately one mile. Adults may average anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 steps depending on their lifestyle," he said. "Research shows that at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week can make a significant difference in one’s health."
Adding 10,000 steps can help people meet this recommendation. All 30 minutes doesn’t have to be done at once, but it’s best to strive for a 10-minute segment, he added.
Kaaihue offered the following tips to help squeeze in exercise: walk to a colleague’s work area instead of calling or sending an e-mail; walk during breaks or part of a lunch hour; schedule walking dates with a spouse, friend or neighbor.
Pedometers are a good way to measure distance, but Kaaihue says it’s equally important to log successes. "Wearing a pedometer is not enough. To be of real help, readings should be recorded daily so you can see if you are meeting your goal," he said.
"Walking regularly can improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce body fat, increase muscle strength, help you sleep better, reduce stress and give you more energy."
Kaiser’s 10,000 Steps program costs $30, $20 for members. A pedometer is provided to participants along with logbooks to track goals. Participants receive personalized messages to encourage them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Other walking programs include:
» Senior "Walk Safe" Program: 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Kahala Mall. Designed for those interested in increasing their fitness level, improving body balance to prevent injury, developing breathing techniques that support the back and learning simple movements to protect your joints. Call Cindy at 284-3540 to register.
» St. Francis Hospice "Walk in the Mall" Program: The program is open to any person dealing with the loss of a loved one. Offering exercise, socialization and grief education opportunities. Contact Felicia at 547-8145.
» 8 to 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Pearlridge Uptown, second level fronting Sephora.
» 8 to 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Kahala Mall, near Macy’s.
» 9 to 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Windward Mall, lower-level Sears wing.
» Local Walks and Races: Visit www.active.com and search "Hawaii walks" to get information on races, charity events and fun walks.