Keeping in step at the parks

By Caryl Clem:

April’s monthly theme is for everyone to walk so put on your favorite soles and head for a park while practicing social distancing. Cook County Forest Preserves feature 70,000 acres and over 350 trails to investigate while Chicago’s parks cover 7,600 acres. To locate the scenic 31,000 acres with 206 pathways and trails to explore; the largest selection of endangered and wildlife species in Lake County along the Des Plaines River or the shores of Lake Michigan.

A contest had been held to decide what the best park should offer and the winner influenced the next 50 years of park designs, Frederick Law Olmsted. The New York Central Park in 1857, was a showcase of beauty, a park with rolling landscapes and graceful wrought iron benches. The most frequent visitors were the wealthy. The best roads were there for carriage races held on a regular basis. By the turn of the century parks were constructed for the working class in neighborhood locations.  The love of sports becomes part of park services in the 1960’s.  Parks offers a huge variety of activities from museums, conservatories, cultural centers in addition to exercise.  A majority of parks feature a younger child area with playground equipment and sand boxes. Any park is an adventure to walk through while studying nature. There are interactive maps with GPS available, for instance LCFPD.org/maps.

The Rails to Trails movement idea started in Chicago. May Theilgaard Watts in 1963 wrote to the Chicago Tribune proposing closed Chicago-Aurora-Elgin railroad line was a space to walk going to waste, this was a missed opportunity. In her words, “ if we have the courage and foresight..then from this strip we can create a proud resource.”  Years later, The Illinois Prairie Path Organization turned her words into a reality currently used by over 800,000 people who have walked along the Illinois Prairie Path. Outside of  Chicago, this site offers locations complete with ratings.

The best example of wetlands is in the Spring Bluff forest preserve in Winthrop Harbor that links to the Chiwaukee Prairie in Wisconsin. The 4, 500 acre is the highest quality of coastal area in Illinois and southeast Wisconsin awarded the Ramsar Wetland of International Significance in 2015.

History and culture exploration are offered in several parks; for example The Dunn Museum in Libertyville, Indian Park near the West Rogers Park area’s Cultural Center offering Native American themes to pay tribute to the former Pottawattomie tribes that occupied this territory,  and Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park . Old roads and horse trails wind through Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods.

For dog owners,  (annual permits required )pawsitivly great spots In Lake County,

   Dog Park Maps
Duck Farm »              Independence Grove »             Lakewood »
Prairie Wolf »             Waukegan Savanna »

For Chicago, check out these trails for your favorite pet.

Currently, many parks are closed so check before going. Spend April walking, even around your neighborhood. Doctors advise a minimum of 30 minutes for at least 5 days a week. When the parks open again, explore and feel the excitement of a new adventure while improving your health.

Walking turns back time

By Caryl Clem:

The cosmetic business thrives on the illusion of “looking good” and “looking younger”.  All the major retailers feature an array of make-up products and skin enhancers close to the front of the store within sight of cash registers. Heart research offers another way to look and feel better, walking.  In an article written by the Mayo Clinic about health benefits from walking, your life expectancy increases by two hours for every one hour spent walking.  In shopping jargon, spend one hour for a double return, better than buy one, get one free.  Since 2007, The Heart Association declared the first Wednesday in April as National Walking Day.

Who needs to walk? Anyone with a heart, type 2 diabetes, joint issues, high blood pressure, who wants to improve bone and muscle tone while increasing balance and coordination and reducing body fat.  Doctors recommend physical activity for kids daily is 60 minutes as a minimum; adults should do 30 minutes daily. Time management to allow time for walking may take some compromises such as 10 or 15 minute walking intervals. Walking in spurts is still better than the alternative…gravitational opposite of sitting or reclining.

Walking is not boring when you have props in place to make the time enjoyable.  I manage to walk 5 to 6 days every week at a park district facility near my home. Talking to a walking partner is the best option for making the time goes faster. The ability to listen to music or the news is done by the majority of single walkers I see with various ear bud equipment. Deepening a friendship you have or meeting new friends happens when you walk on a regular basis.

Every walker has their own story to share; overcoming a challenge in life with determination and a plan approved by a doctor. I have Multiple Sclerosis, a condition that has mandated regulating my diet and exercise. I had a massive attack when I was 38. I returned to full time employment 9 years later to retire from that career choice 21 years later. My neurosurgeon made me promise to never stop exercising and I have been able to honor that promise. I have an in-law in my family who exercises to control and manage her MS along with monitoring her diet. We are both drug free and enjoying life’s activities in spite of MS.

Soon the weather will allow my favorite form of walking, exploring the outdoors. Chicago land area has so many places to go sightseeing; I can hardly wait for a weather report predicting sun and comfortable temperatures.