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Walking – the cheap, easy path to fitness

Charles Feldman found hiking in a pinch.

He weighed 290 pounds this time last year – 15 pounds too much to pass the “ladder test” required for his job as a service installer for Time Warner Cable. So he joined the Finger Lakes Trail Conference, started hiking at least 30 miles a week, and over time realized how powerful putting one foot in front of the other can be.

He started eating better, made many new friends and lost 70 pounds.

“When I was overweight, I didn’t do anything,” said Feldman, 41, of Springville. “I was a big gamer and my diet wasn’t very good. Hiking changes your mood, your outlook on things. It’s totally changed my life.”

Feldman is a case in point for Philip L. Haberstro, executive director of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo. The institute – which has led free public walks downtown and in Erie County parks for several years – has set a goal of 40 million steps this year for those who participate in most of the walking-related events in the region.

“We can all be physically active,” Haberstro said.

According to America Walks, a nonprofit advocacy group, more than half of Americans don’t get the recommended minimum exercise needed each week – at least 150 minutes – and walking is the cheapest and easiest way to reach that goal.

The benefits of walking are many, according to the group:

• Older Americans who walk regularly have better long-term health outcomes.

• Walkable neighborhoods have much lower rates of traffic fatalities – for both pedestrians and motorists.

• One-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. – where one-quarter of all trips are within a mile from home – are transportation related.

“Walking helps people stay both physically and mentally healthy,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in his recent call to make Americans more frequent walkers and American communities more walkable. “It brings business districts to life and can help reduce air pollution.”

Along with walks in your neighborhood, here are other options in the region:

FREE WALKS

Refresh Family Wellness Walks

• Noon Wednesday, Buffalo Niagara Visitor Center, Brisbane Building, 403 Main St. at Washington and Clinton streets, along Lafayette Square.

• 10 a.m. Aug. 13, Ellicott Creek Park Shelter 14, 1 Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda.

• 10 a.m. Oct. 1, Chestnut Ridge Park Casino, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park.

Walking on Wednesdays

• Noon each Wednesday from June 1 through Aug. 31, starting at Kaminsky Park, 120 Carlton St.

Guided Reflective Walks

• Meet at Marcy Casino along Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, 199 Lincoln Parkway, by 10:45 a.m. on the following dates: June 5, July 3, Aug. 7, Sept. 4, Oct. 2, Nov. 6.

Be Active Erie County Park Walks

Registration starts at 9 a.m., walk at 9:40 a.m. in the following locations:

• Next Saturday: Akron Falls Park, Cummings Lodge, 44 Parkview Drive, Akron.

• June 4: Ellicott Creek Park Casino, 1 Ellicott Creek Road, Town of Tonawanda.

• June 11: Isle View Park Gazebo, Niagara Street, City of Tonawanda.

• June 18: Como Lake Park, Shelter 15, 2220 Como Park Blvd., Lancaster.

• June 25: Chestnut Ridge Park Casino, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park.

Walktober Walks

• Noon Wednesdays from Oct. 5 to 25, Buffalo Niagara Visitor Center, 403 Main St.

MODESTLY PRICED

Fundraising and awareness walks

• South Buffalo Awareness/Remembrance Walk for Hope: 11 a.m. next Saturday, Cazenovia Park, to raise awareness for individuals and families impacted by depression and/or addiction.

• Walk for Kids: 11 a.m. May 22, Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst, to benefit Kids Escaping Drugs

• Hospice Memorial Walk: 11 a.m. May 22, Canalside, to benefit Hospice Buffalo.

• Walk off Hunger: 11 a.m. July 30, Island Park, 5565 Main St., Williamsville, to benefit the Food Bank of WNY.

Explore Buffalo

This nonprofit group has more than 100 guided walking tours planned this summer, along with biking and kayaking trips. According to the website, explorebuffalo.org, most walking tours run $15 for adults and $5 for students; annual memberships, which include free tours, also are available. Among the tours:

• Downtown history and architecture

• Waterfront and grain elevators

• Gilded Age

• Crime in the Queen City

• City Neighborhoods

Hiking clubs

• Adirondack Mountain Club Niagara Frontier Chapter: Routinely plan hikes, including one Sunday in Letchworth State Park and another next Saturday in Allegany National Forest. For more info, visit adk-nfc.org.

• Foothills Trail Club: Members undertake regular treks and tend to the Conservation Trail, a 177-mile stretch from Niagara Falls to Akron, then south through Darien Lake and Allegany state parks on its way to the Pennsylvania state line. Coming trips include a June 4 visit to the Erie County Forest for National Trails Day. For more info, visit foothillstrailclub.org.

• Finger Lakes Trail Conference: Members partake of regular hikes, mostly on weekends, both inside and outside Western New York. For more info, visit fltconference.org.

• Meetup: Feldman is among the organizers of two hiking-related groups – Buffalo Day Hikers Meetup beginners group and the recently launched intermediate hiking Footprints in the Wilderness, both of which hike at least once a week. The Day Hikers plan to gather for a hike at 9 a.m. June 4 in the Letchworth State Park Lower Falls parking lot. Western New York Meetup groups also include Walking & Fun Activities for Fitness, for all fitness levels, which will gather at Sprague Brook Park on Sunday and Reinstein Woods next Saturday. Access all these groups at meetup.com/cities/us/ny/buffalo.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

Inside: Get into the running habit, Page 11

Sunday in Viewpoints: How to make Buffalo and WNY more walkable

On the web: Read about the ABCs of biking maintenance and safety at refresh. buffalonews.com