For one Calgary senior, walking outside has had both physical and psychological benefits on her entire life

Through near-freezing weather and pouring rain march three committed individuals who never stop moving as long as there is a path out in front.

The fastest of the group, Lorraine Holman walks down the main path in Confederation Park with an apparent, yet subtle sense of determination.

Listen to interview with Lorraine Holman about her experience with Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network walking program.

She leads the way with her two close friends nipping at her heels, much like a sergeant leading troops into battle.

But Holman and her friends are not off to war; instead, they are walking through the park in northwest Calgary as a part of the Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network walking program.

“We walk five days a week and we try to walk outside for as long as we can before the snow comes,” says Holman. “If it’s not raining cats and dogs, then we take our umbrellas and always choose outside over going in the mall.”

The walking group promotes more than just the physical benefits that one gains, something Holman recognized prior to joining.

“I joined this group for two reasons: one was for the social aspect of it, because it is always nice to get together with other people, it keeps you motivated, and the second reason was the exercise of course.”

For Holman, the social and psychological benefits have expanded outside of the walking itself. As a result of walking all the time with the same people, she has created a core network of friends. Her group not only walks together but meet at other places for things, like get-togethers over coffee and gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada.

5 Best Places to walk in Calgary:

  1. Weaselhead Natural Environment Area
  2. Fish Creek Provincial Park
  3. Confederation Park
  4. Sunnyside Greenhouse
  5. Market Mall (it is a perfect circle, i.e. a track)

The walking program either meets in Confederation Park or in North Hill Centre before it opens. Holman and company walk outside right up until the snow falls, at which point it becomes too treacherous, so they move into the mall.

Even though they are forced to use the mall during the winter months, Holman cites the outdoors as being a catalyst in the formation of her personal network.Lorraine Holman on right side.
Photo by: Clayton Goodwin

“If we never started walking outside we wouldn’t have gotten to know each other. In the mall there is not much socializing, just a bunch of passing greetings. But outside, you feel more connected with the others around you, which results in you getting to know one another better.”

And the challenges they face by walking outside, such as steep inclines, force them to push each other in an emotional sense she says.

The walking program has not only helped Holman physically, but it appears as though the relationships she has developed through it have had a positive effect on her entire life.

Sandi Gowriluk is the program co-ordinator for the Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network, in charge of the walking group.

Gowriluk knows that the walking group can benefit individuals such as Holman in a variety of ways.

“Walking helps decrease blood pressure, reduce body fat, lowers the risk of heart-disease, reduced stress levels, and also releases natural endorphins that promote the feeling of happiness.”

The endorphins that are released by walking tie into the mental benefits that Lorraine experiences. Gowriluk went on to agree that the program is also a great opportunity for people to meet others and create social networks that help people stay motivated.

If you are interested in getting some exercise and meeting new people like Holman experienced, visit the Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network walking program.

cgood@cjournal.ca