The lifting of pandemic restrictions is about to set Platteville area walkers free to roam. The Sole Mates walking club is not only returning for 2021 with its weekly Monday evening walks but also simultaneously launching the club’s always popular 100 Miles in 100 Days Community Walking Challenge. A Launch Party celebration for both the weekly walks and the challenge is set for Monday, June 7th at 5:00pm in Katie’s Garden at the Platteville Regional Chamber. Everyone is invited.
Sponsored by Southwest Health of Platteville, Sole Mates is a free club open to all. In addition to weekly group walks, Sole Mates has for years also offered a 100 Miles in 100 Days Community Walking Challenge. In addition to free water bottles available at the upcoming Launch Party, Southwest Health physical therapy expert Josh Bruner, DPT, will deliver a short talk on proper walking shoes and avoiding common injuries. Bruner will also be available during the event to address participants’ individual questions.
Members walked the trails together for several summers until last year’s pandemic derailed the weekly get-togethers. With the risk of COVID transmission extremely low in outdoor settings and so many people vaccinated, weekly group walks are about to make their comeback. Anna Pennington, a regular weekly walk participant in previous years says, “I look forward to joining friends and making new friends by participating in Sole Mates walking. Sole Mates offers me encouragement to get out of my easy chair and get moving.”
One of Sole Mate’s key principles is that both the group walks and the 100 Mile Challenge are open to all, regardless of who they are or how fast or how far they walk. “Sole Mates and the walking challenge are just pure good vibes and no judgment,” says Platteville resident Kecia King.
For many, the events offer needed motivation to exercise regularly. “The walking challenge inspires accountability,” says Susan Chace of Platteville. “It’s always so easy to say, ‘I’m too busy today’. But thinking about the people and the different flowers and birds along the way get me going. Plus my dogs love their daily walks!”
The health benefits of walking are numerous and well-documented. Regular walks increase heart and lung fitness and reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke which are among the most frequent causes of death across the U.S. and in southwest Wisconsin. Walking also helps maintain or lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels while reducing the incidence of diabetes. In addition to noticeable improvements in joint and muscular pain and stiffness, walking results in stronger bones and improved balance.
The social aspect of the Sole Mates walking club is important to health, too. A growing body of evidence now links health to social factors, including one’s social network. Researchers at the Departments of Sociology and Health Policy at Harvard report, for example, “People are interconnected, and so their health is interconnected. The study concludes that social networks can impact individuals in ways that patients, doctors, researchers, and policy makers should care about. .” Among other positive effects, socializing helps buffer against the stressors that damage one’s health. Another study from researchers at both Harvard and Yale concludes naturally occurring social networks are vital to health outcomes and that, “Human health and wellbeing are connected through complex webs of dynamic social relationships.”
The social aspects of the walking group are aptly expressed by Lara Wells of Platteville who says, “The 100 miles in 100 days walking challenge is a wonderful way to keep me doing my favorite things: getting fresh air and exercising. And being able to do it as a community group activity makes it even better. I love the mental and physical benefits of walking. This Sole Mates activity really makes me look forward to Summer!”
Iron distance triathlete and life-long endurance sports enthusiast, Jaime Collins (also Director of Marketing and Communications at Southwest Health) has served as Sole Mates’ organizer and leader since its beginning. Despite all her regular physical activities, Collins is also a dedicated regular walker. “Walking with others, whether that’s my partner or my Sole Mates friends, is one of the very best forms of exercise. Being outdoors with the breeze and the birds and the trees and flowers lifts my spirit and heals my soul. Regardless how fast or how far I go, it’s always a true privilege to be able to walk at all on any given day. That simple fact gives me gratitude for life I just can’t get anywhere else.”
Anyone can sign up at any time for Sole Mates or the 100 Miles in 100 Days Walking Challenge. Visit southwesthealth.org/walk for details or to join in the fun. Those interested can also sign up at the Monday, June 7 that begins at 5:00 pm at Katie’s Garden in Platteville.