• Tom Hanlon

Mapping Our Walks

Updated: May 20, 2020

This morning I got up early. Actually, I always get up early! I made a little breakfast and sat down to read and pray. This is the beginning of my daily routine. Then, I usually check the news on my phone. I try not to do this more than once during the day since there are so many negative and alarming stories these days. This morning I came upon an article about scientists who had lived in isolated locations. The scientists were talking about how they kept up their mental health for extended periods of time when under extreme forms of social distancing. The answers from each of the scientists were a recipe for living with the COVID-19 world or any world where fear, uncertainty and loneliness threaten:

· Follow a regular routine

· Be easy on yourself and those around you

· Practice some form of mindfulness or prayer

· Accept those things over which you have no control

· Focus on positives

I try to practice these recommendations in my own life and I include regular physical activity in the routine. I set goals and one of these goals is to walk each day, usually for an hour or so. This is a huge help for me in so many ways. Now I have added a new piece to the routine and specifically to exercise. A group of us have started to use the MapMyWalk app and we have set up a River's Way Walking Challenge using the app. We can now see the walks and workouts that the group members do each day. This level of accountability is tremendously motivating! As an example, my wife and I returned from an eight hour car trip this past Friday and I just wanted to collapse in my chair, but then I remembered that I had to walk if I wanted to keep up with the others on the challenge. It wasn't easy, but out I went!

My grandsons, Patrick and Owen, are part of our

walking challenge!

Every afternoon when we do our River’s Way Zoom session with our Game Changers (our core group of young people with differing abilities), we check in to see how we are all doing with walking. We want to see if the people we work with are getting regular physical activity because we believe it is so important. My dad, as he was nearing the end of his life, always used to say that “exercise is the most important word in the English dictionary.” While I can’t say I believe that exercise is the most important word, I know that regular exercise is a critical piece of a good day for me. At the same time, as the leader of a non-profit working with people with differing abilities, I have to ask myself, “Is it right for me to push my exercise agenda on our Game Changers?” It’s when I have a question like this that I turn to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). NCHPAD is promoting a new vision for walking, an inclusive vision where walking is for EVERY BODY. The center wants to re-brand walking and the images on their web site show people with all types of abilities and disabilities out walking together in their neighborhoods.

Here are a couple of images from the NHPAD’s HOW I WALK campaign to re-brand walking.

The statistics NCHPAD cites aren’t so good. It looks like 50% of adults with disabilities, ages 18-64, get no exercise. It also looks like adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have chronic disease.

So walking is good for disease prevention, but walking is also good for mental health and it can be a critical piece of the routine that we know works when it comes to living in a world of social distancing and even post social distancing. I am so convinced of this that I will continue to place walking and physical activity at the center of what we do at River’s Way.

Walking each day gives me a sense of purpose, especially when I am competing with others on our Map My Walk challenge. Walking each day keeps me focused on the positives and it is something that I can control. The question for Matt and me is “Can we sell this to our Game Changers?” The signs are promising. I think that an app like Map My Walk may be the answer.

Baby Lucas loves to walk with his mother Natalia,

a River's Way yoga instructor and volunteer.

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