North Carolina Department of Correction News - March 1999

For your health

Walking can do wonders
for your health

Why walk?

The truth about walking

Walking can do wonders for your health

We all know the importance of regular exercise in living a long and healthy life, but with our busy schedules these days, who has time for exercise?

You do! Recent medical studies prove that doing something as simple as taking a 20-minute walk can do wonders for your health.

Most Americans including employees of this department do not get enough exercise – about one in four U.S. adults are sedentary and another third are not active enough to reach a healthy level of fitness.

Warden James French and Central Prison managers walk every day at
lunch time.

Considering that lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death for Americans, and a contributor to many other illnesses, this is a serious problem.

Now, thanks to a study conducted by researchers at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, employees can no longer use excuses such as lack of time, limited access to exercise facilities or a dislike of vigorous exercise as reasons for not exercising.

According to the results of the study, moderate activities such as walking are just as effective as structured exercise programs in improving long-term cardiorespiratory fitness and blood pressure.

"The results show that physical activity doesn't require a fitness center and high-intensity workouts," said Dr. Andrea Dunn, Associate Director at the Cooper Institute.

With nothing more than a pair of walking shoes and a commitment of 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week, you can dramatically lower your risk of developing diseases and improve your overall health and mental attitude.

James French, warden of Central Prison, started walking on a regular basis three years ago and has seen first-hand how walking can improve one’s health.

"Three years ago, my blood pressure shot up, and my cholesterol was up to 326," he said. "I decided then that with my job and the life expectancy of people working in corrections, that I was going to have to start exercising and really watching what I eat."

Now Warden French walks six to seven days a week, and his cholesterol is down around the 180 mark. Inspired by the his healthy lifestyle, Deputy Warden Robey Lee, Captain Gerald Branker, Captain Marshall Hudson and Doug Harris now join the warden on his daily lunchtime walks which range from 3.4 to 4.2 miles. By walking with the warden for just one year, Captain Hudson managed to lose 65 to 70 pounds and has gone from a 48 to a 36-inch waist.

Like Warden French, Charlene Manshack, an office assistant with MIS, began walking several years ago as a way to keep her elevated cholesterol in check.

"It was doctor’s orders," she said.

Manshack said she tries to walk two to three miles a day, usually four to five times a week. Although she started walking for health reasons, Manshack said the biggest benefit she’s gotten from walking is stress management.

"Walking is a great way to relieve stress," she said. "It gives me some thinking time, and you need that balance in life. I always tell my friends that if you stick with it for 21 days, it becomes habit. It’s like brushing your teeth. If you don’t do it one day, you feel like you are missing something."

Reggie Weisner, superintendent of Western Youth Institution, agrees. He said that on the days he walks, he feels much more focused at work.

"I walk at least three to four times a week, and I’ve found that when I exercise, my energy level is up, and I’m more alert during the day," he said.

A noontime walker, Weisner spends his lunch hour briskly walking a three-mile trail cut through gameland adjacent to the prison’s property.

"Walking also helps me control my weight," he said. "Now instead of going to a restaurant for lunch, I grab a granola bar and some fruit and go walk."

Reggie Mewborn, assistant director of the Inmate Grievance Resolution Board and an exercise and nutrition enthusiast, said it is important for employees to make time for exercise whether it is walking or participating in some other activity that they enjoy.

"The way I see it is that if you don’t have time for exercise now, you will have to make time for illness later," he said. u

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