Walk Yourself To Fitness
One spring morning, Jennifer and Jessica Modzeleski, 18-year-old twins from Dunbarton, N.H., woke up at 4:30 a.m. to walk a marathon and a half. It may sound like an odd way to spend a weekend, but Jenn and Jess had a good cause in mind. They were going the distance and raising money to help stomp out a deadly disease.
The Modzeleski sisters participated in the 2004 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a weekend long fund-raising event. Between May and October, weekend walks were held in six U.S. cities. The first of the six walks kicked off in Boston, where Jenn and Jess participated with about 1,600 other walkers. The Boston event alone raised more than $4.5 million for breast cancer education, screening, treatment, and scientific research to find a cure. “It’s a cause everyone needs to be aware of,” Jess told Current Health.
Breast cancer is second only to skin cancer as the leading cancer in women in the United States. In 2004 alone, an estimated 216,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women. Breast cancer is extremely rare among teenagers. However, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. The disease most often strikes women, but men can develop it too.
The Modzeleskis know several women affected by the disease. Their great-grandmother is a breast-cancer survivor, and an older cousin is currently battling the disease. “Jess and I wanted not only to walk for our family members but for all families that are dealing with the effects of breast cancer,” Jenn said. Like any cancer, breast cancer can be a killer. A woman dies from the disease every 12 minutes. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help people survive.
Jenn and Jess did more than support a good cause by joining in the weekend walk. They also got some good exercise. Believe it or not, walking can be an easy and effective way to keep in shape. Walking doesn’t require practice or a lot of time. Just a brisk 30-minute walk every day provides health benefits.
What counts as “brisk”? According to experts, true fitness walking requires a speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour (mph). People who walk at a slower speed can still burn calories, though. For example, a 75-pound person will burn 125 calories by walking at 2 mph for an hour. Pick up the pace–to 4.5 mph–and the same person will burn 245 calories. Likewise, a 100-pound person who walks an hour at 2 mph will use 160 calories; he or she will burn 295 calories by speeding up to 4.5 mph.
Weekend walks such as the Avon Walk take a lot of endurance. Both Jenn and Jess enjoy sports and had been physically active long before they participated in the event. In 2003, Jenn competed in a mini-triathlon, and both sisters plan to do the race this year. However, the longest journeys begin with a single step. Walking for exercise is something almost everyone can do.
At 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, Jenn, Jess, and the other Avon walkers hit the road. The girls were determined to walk the full route–a marathon distance (26.2 miles) on Saturday and a half-marathon (13.1 miles) on Sunday. It was a warm, sunny day, and the sisters were in good spirits. “The time goes by so fast, talking to people and sightseeing,” Jess said. Her sister agreed. “It’s easier than we expected,” said Jenn.
As the miles went on, the trek got harder, thanks to aching muscles and blisters on their feet. “The end was tough, but we really did push each other along,” Jenn said. They finally finished the day’s walk about 4 p.m., arriving at the “Wellness Village,” where all the participants spent the night in tents.
Before Jenn and Jess knew it, it was time to lace up their sneakers again for the second day of the walk. Thirty minutes into their walk, rain began to fall. The weather forecast had not called for rain, so many walkers were without rain gear. A woman handed out trash bags to the waterlogged walkers, and Jenn and Jess happily pulled them over their heads to stay warm and dry.
Despite the weather, the girls remained positive and made it to the end of the 39.3-mile walk. “Through the weather, we really did have a lot of fun, and there was no better feeling than walking across the finish line,” Jenn remembered. “We will never forget this experience.”
Get on the move; start a walking program. Here’s how to begin:
* Choose a safe place to walk. For your own safety, you should always walk with a partner or group.
* Wear comfortable clothing and shoes with flexible soles thick enough to absorb shock.
* Pace yourself. Try walking slowly for five minutes, then speeding up for the next five minutes. To cool down, walk slowly for another five minutes. Increase your time gradually to avoid stiffness or sore muscles.
* Technique is important. Stand straight, tuck in your stomach, and walk with your chin up. The heel of your foot should strike the ground first, and you should roll through the step from heel to toe. Swing your arms as you walk to maximize your workout.