AUBURN — Get moving. Get outside and go for a walk. Science shows it will help you live longer.
For every hour you walk, you add two hours to your life expectancy.
That was part of the message delivered Wednesday by Susan Keiler, chief operating officer for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and chairwoman of the 2010 Central Maine Heart Walk.
The message from the American Heart Association was clear, and on Sept. 19, the 2.5-mile trek along the Riverwalk in Auburn and Lewiston will be the first official Heart Walk route for Maine in 2010, Keiler said.
Keiler, joined by Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, Auburn Mayor Richard Gleason and L-A Trails Executive Director Jonathan LaBonte, greeted a host of local businesspeople and workers to kick off the 4th Annual National Start! Walking Day at the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday.
The group then walked along the Riverwalk in Auburn and across the pedestrian bridge to Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston.
“Getting fit always starts with the first step,” Gilbert said. “Why not let that first step start with walking?”
“The best way to stay healthy is to walk and to get out there and exercise, so I’m glad you’re all here,” Gleason said to the crowd of about 50 people. He encouraged those in attendance to promote the Riverwalk as a community resource.
The American Heart Association worked with the Androscoggin Land Trust, the parent of L-A Trails, to certify the path as the first official one in the state, LaBonte said. L-A Trails and Androscoggin Land Trust supporters have long used the riverside trails and paths, he said, and the recent connection below Court Street and Longley Bridge to West Pitch Park makes the area even more attractive for residents and visitors.
“The bridge under the bridge” is a much-welcomed addition to the Twin Cities’ recreational riverside resources, LaBonte said.
Keiler also announced several newly named local “Fit Friendly” companies, including the cities of Auburn (with a platinum ranking) and Lewiston (with a gold rating). Also on the platinum list are L.L. Bean, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Cardiovascular Consultants of Maine. On the gold list locally are Barber Foods, Hannaford Brothers Co., Holden Agency Insurance/Employee Benefits Solutions, McCain Foods, MEMIC and Mercy Hospital, according to a release issued by the AHA.
The association’s Start! program includes online tools for employees and free consultations for employers who want to start encouraging a fitter work force.
Keiler said that 66 percent of Americans are overweight. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of all types of exercise, she said. It is estimated that more than a third of all heart-related deaths are a result of being overweight or obese, and only 15 percent of Americans achieve the recommended levels of moderate aerobic exercise.
For more information about the American Heart Association’s National Start! Walking Day or for resources on starting a walking program for yourself or your workplace go to: www.startwalkingnow.org.