Celebrating 40 years of ‘the joy of walking’

Several dozen people took to the streets recently in Point Loma to celebrate the joy and “magic” of something many people take for granted: walking.

The celebration was part of “The Joys of Walking,” a festival marking the 40th anniversary of Walkabout International, a San Diego-based nonprofit that organizes hundreds of cost-free local walks each year. The event, held at Liberty Station, began with various speakers and ended with a walk outdoors.

Edie Andrew-Akita, 89 of San Diego, said she has been a member of Walkabout for 30 years and could attest to the power of walking regularly for exercise.

“It has kept us young,” Andrew-Akita said of herself and her fellow members. “Our average age is 80 or something, and everyone is in great shape.”

Dr. Poulina Uddin, a cardiologist with Scripps Health who spoke at the event, said walking 45 minutes at least four days a week can improve muscle tone, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and relieve stress.

Regular exercise makes people stronger and more physically resilient, so they can recover faster if they get sick or need major surgery, Uddin said.

“Anything you can do to increase your baseline level of activity will help you through any illness,” Uddin said. “The recovery will be much better.”

Another speaker, Walkabout founder Larry Forman, said decades of walking helped him get on his feet both physically and mentally after surgery to treat his brain cancer.

“I certainly didn’t want a little hiccup in my health like brain cancer to prevent me from pursuing my passion: walking,” Forman said.

And it didn’t, he said. The nurses who accompanied him on his post-surgery walks got tired before he did.

Robert Manning, an author of books on walking, spoke about its benefits on the mind and soul. He pointed to great thinkers throughout history, from the Greek philosopher Aristotle to the English author Henry David Thoreau, who said regular walks stimulated their minds.

It’s also a great way to meet some “sole mates,” Walkabout members said. They said they met great friends through walking groups, and a couple people even found true love.

Mike Anderson, 68, a retired Navy SEAL from Spring Valley, attended the event with his wife, Kathy, and pitbull-boxer mix Timmy. He said they all walk and hike together, but they thought it might be fun to join a group.

“When you get older, it’s kind of hard to find people to do this kind of thing,” he said.

Along with meeting friends, Walkabout groups are also a great way to explore the city, members said. Volunteers lead numerous walks daily in neighborhoods throughout San Diego. The group also organizes out-of-town trips.

To learn more about Walkabout and see a schedule of walks, visit walkabout-int.org or call its office at (619) 231-7463.

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