GTPulse: Enjoy The Color Change With Explore East Bay
Fall is decidedly the perfect season for walking. The leaves changing color provide a fiery contrast to cool blue skies, and it is a marvel hard to look away from. The season for long pants, coats and comfy shoes is here, and we’re slowly going to be spending more time indoors as it gets colder. Fall is the last cash grab for long, leisurely walks outside before snow boots and heavy layers take the leisurely aspect out of it.
Explore East Bay is an 8-week program going on right now to encourage everyone to get out and get moving, and what better way to do that than walking?
“There are eight parks apart of the program. Not all of them are in East Bay Township, but they’re all public parks for everyone to enjoy.”
Jake Myers works as a staff member in planning and zoning for East Bay Charter Township, and he coordinated the eight-week program. The free program will be ending soon as this week marks week seven. The walking program just so happened to coincide with the fall color change, and there’s definitely still time left to enjoy some autumn beauty on a stroll before winter temperatures set in for the season.
The program kicked off Labor Day and was developed with Michigan Recreation & Parks Association (mPark’s) Walk Michigan program. Because the program is meant to be fun for all, there are only a few guidelines for participating in the program. For 30 minutes a day, folks are asked to choose a park to walk through for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. A week was dedicated to exploring each park, eight weeks for eight parks, but because I only just found out about the program, I picked a few closest to me and walked there. The program was designed to give area residents more exposure to some of the great parks around here, and also to improve mental and physical health.
Walking never seems like exercise to me because it doesn’t feel like it. Whether walking is simple for you or not, it is definitely exercise. Walking has been proven to strengthen the heart and immune system, as well as burn calories and boost energy levels. But, walking has also been proven to ease stress. A 20-minute walk is enough to lower cortisol levels, your flight or fight hormone. Turn that 20-minute walk into a 30-minute walk outside, and cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. With a host of other benefits, it’s no wonder that walking is so encouraged by doctors, moms, and gym teachers all over the world. It expands your health and extends your life.
“It started because East Bay was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, and part of the grant was coordinating outdoor programming. We had done a lot of park improvement at Grace Macdonald Park which is one of our more well-known parks in East Bay Township. We applied about a year ago and were getting ready for scheduling and improvements when Covid hit, so the idea of trying to coordinate outdoor programming with large groups didn’t really seem to make a whole lot of sense, so we had to adapt the program to be a little more independent.”
Independent doesn’t mean compromised in this case. The initial program had intended to spotlight Grace Macdonald, however, with the pandemic related changes, they decided to make the program a tour of East Bay instead. Parks like the Holiday Woodlands Preserve would go unnoticed by me if it weren’t for the program. Explore East Bay also encourages folks to take photos of their excursions while they’re out for fun. With the color change happening, it’s near impossible to take a bad photo. Photos submitted are posted on the East Bay Township website.
“We figured this was an engaging way to adapt the activity programming and it gives people flexibility in exploring the area.”
Don’t miss out on the colors or the buzz of getting an outdoor walk in. I know I take 30 minutes just deciding what I want to make for dinner, it’s funny to think using that same time frame for walking can help you feel better, sleep better and live longer. For a walking guide with all the included parks and tips and tricks to feel your best before and after, head to http://eastbaytwp.org/exploreeastbay.
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