Walk n’ talk: Look Park wellness program mixes fitness, advice

  • “Look Park is a gem,” said Diane Haskell, a Chicopee resident. Haskell, center, took part in the Mile Markers program last Wednesday, a summer wellness program bringing health care professionals to Look Park.  STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • Stephen Markey, a physical therapist at Cooley Dickinson, led warm up exercises prior to the walk around the park’s walking path last Wednesday at Look Park for the Miles Marker program.  STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2019 7:55:52 AM

A new wellness program at Look Park will give people opportunities throughout the summer to walk the park’s 1.2-mile path in the company of health care professionals.

“Mile Markers,” a collaboration between Cooley Dickinson Health Care and Look Park, is intended to promote exercise while providing free access to physical therapists, certified nurse midwives, and staff physicians, according to event organizers.

“We are bringing our providers and staff out into the community because usually people come to us at the practices or the hospital,” said Roisin Quinn, an event coordinator and community liaison for Cooley Dickinson. “It’s nice that they are able to go outside, get exercise, ask questions and talk to providers in a really informal, comfortable setting.”

Last Wednesday, the program kicked off with about a dozen people who gathered near the tennis courts at the park.

Stephen Markey, a physical therapist at Cooley Dickinson, led warm-up exercises prior to the walk around the park’s walking path.

Participants began jogging in place around 5 p.m., and Markey guided the group through calf, hip flexor and inner thigh stretches at 30-second intervals. After the stretches were done, participants on the walk said that getting exercise with other people was a big draw for them.

Amherst resident Ching-Ching Cernada said that she heard of Mile Markers online, and that she used to come to Look Park more often with her children. “When the kids were younger, we used to come to feed the ducks and ride the boats, but I haven’t been here for some time,” she said. ”I thought it would be nice to come again.”

Cernada said she enjoys dancing at the Amherst Senior Center for exercise and that she ordinarily finds walking somewhat boring.

However, she said, “If you have company, or group support, it’s more fun and you are more likely do it.”

Joshua Paulino, of Ludlow, is an intern with Cooley Dickinson’s marketing department, and he agreed that exercising with others provides more motivation for people to get out and be active.

“Doing it on your own takes a lot of motivation, and you’re just doing it for yourself,” said Paulino. “But if you have a person with you, or a group of people, it’s almost like you want to do it more.” 

Markey said that having professional medical staff from Cooley available on the walks to impart advice can be a valuable resource for people while also promoting routine exercise for them.

“People have a hard time committing to an exercise routine,” Markey said. “So if you schedule it, make it easy to do — and it doesn’t cost anything — people are more apt to stick with it and create good habits.”

He continued, “There is a social component to it as well. There is an opportunity to meet people and connect with them.”

On Thursday, July 18, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., certified nurse midwives from Cooley Dickinson’s Women’s Health will be available to answer questions while leading a “stroller parade,” according to Quinn. The topic of that walk will be “Taking care of yourself while parenting little ones.”

Certified nurse midwife Annie Heath from Cooley Dickinson will be at the next Mile Marker event, and among the topics she and other midwives will address are how to stay healthy when parents have newborns.

“Most important is to be very patient with yourself and your family,” Heath said. “It takes time to get to know this little one and find rhythms that work for your family.”

She suggests families learn to prioritize what they value and “delegate or let go of the small stuff” because babies take a lot of time and care.

“Lean on your community,” Heath said. “Find your community of supports, people to share time with, people who can help out.”

On Friday, July 26, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Cooley Dickinson’s Dr. Eric Granowitz will address tick-borne illnesses. Events continue until September, and a full schedule can be found on Look Park’s website (www.lookpark.org).

Granowitz, who specializes in infectious diseases at Cooley Dickinson, will speak about the three most common tick diseases in the area – Lyme, anaplasmosis and babesiosis – as well as how to prevent tick bites in the first place.

“First thing is to stay aware in tall grass, ticks like to move up tall grass and move from grass to skin and crawl to warm places on the body such as behind the knees, armpits, groin and the hairline,” Granowitz said.

Other tick-related topics Granowitz will delve into will include the symptoms and stages of different tick diseases, how they are diagnosed and treated and prevention methods to avoid getting bitten by ticks, he said. Ultimately, “the session will be driven by questions.”

Walkers at last week’s Mile Markers described how walking through the picturesque park can make people more comfortable in asking questions in an informal setting.

“Look Park is a gem,” said Diane Haskell, a Chicopee resident. Haskell would walk through Look Park often when she lived in Hadley three years ago and said the event motivated her to return.

“They are doing a wonderful service by allowing people to come in and enjoy the park and get really enthusiastic about walking with other people,” Haskell said. Future “Mile Markers” with midwives will be a huge help for young mothers who don’t have a mother or grandmother to help them with their newborns, she said.

“It can become more than walking, it can be an opportunity for people to talk because when people are relaxed, people talk more about what’s going on,” she said. “They might feel freer to ask questions and get the answers they need. It’s getting people out in the fresh air.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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