WILTON – For Emery Thompson of Wilton, a daily walk around the perimeter of the Academy Hill School provides exercise that keeps him going.

It also provides time to “exercise my jaw,” he said on a recent chilly morning as he and a group of senior walkers talked and walked.

It takes 17 times around the perimeter of the gym to make up a mile. The faithful group of about eight walks 30 to 45 minutes each weekday before school opens. A younger walker weaved between them, keeping stride with the music on her earphones.

Academy Hill School is one of 10 area schools and three community centers throughout Franklin County that participate in the Healthy Community Coalition’s indoor walking program. It’s an effort to promote physical activity during the long winter.

“When it’s cold and icy, we don’t like to walk outdoors,” George Farnum, 86, said. Farnum and his walking partner, Calvin Sewall, 90, walk outdoors during good-weather months.

“It’s a lot better outdoor but inside is better than nothing,” he said of the exercise he’s done for years.

With temperatures registering minus 3 Friday at 7:30 a.m., the hearty group didn’t complain about getting out in the cold to go to the school. Most are in their 70s and 80s and keep track of each other, Helen Colburn, 81, said.

Entertaining others by reciting poems as she walks, Colburn comes with her friends, Louise Lake and Carlene Boyce.

“We walk off the calories then head out to Brickyard Cafe for coffee and treats on Tuesdays,” she said.

Lake circled the gym while listening to music on her earphones. She said she has to walk for health reasons.

The school gym is open to the public from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. weekdays. School janitors let the walkers in a back door when school isn’t open so they can continue their daily routine, Thompson said.

Other sites open mornings and numbers to call for more information include:

* Livermore Falls High School, 6:30 to 7:15 a.m., 897-3428

* Jay High School, 6-7:30 a.m., call in advance 897-4336

* Mt. Blue High School, Farmington, 6-7 a.m., 778-4307

* Mt. Blue Middle School, Farmington, 6-7 a.m., 778-3735

* Cape Cod Hill School, New Sharon, 7:10 to 8 a.m., 778-3031

* Strong School, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m., 684-3521

* Phillips Middle School, 6-7 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. some days, call for availability, 639-2909

* Mt. Abram High School in Salem, 7-8 a.m., call for availability 678-2701

* Stratton School, 6:15 to 7:15 a.m., 246-2283

* UMF Fitness and Recreation Center in Farmington, first Saturday of month, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, 778-7495

* Farmington Community Center, 9 to 10 a.m. weekdays, 778-3464

* Anti-Gravity Complex, Carrabassett Valley, 6-9:30 a.m. weekdays, 237-5566.

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