By Sue Webber
Tom and Sue Masso of New Brighton have been hiking together for 15 years. They are members of the 25-year-old New Brighton Hiking Club. The group has 28 members.
“We do a lot of walking, and there are two reasons to do this,” Masso said. “First, it’s good exercise. And second, it’s evolved into a social thing. People like to sit down and talk after a hike. We’ve really made a lot of different friends.”
At 8:30 a.m. every Wednesday from April 5 through Oct. 25, about 20 members of the hiking club leave on a hike. They’re usually back by noon. They travel to their destination in two city vans. Masso drives one of them. “My job is to get us there safely,” he said. “I really enjoy it.”
They’ve developed a list of destinations, each of which offers a hike estimated at 2.4-3.6 miles, including Long Lake Regional Park, Bunker Hills, Boom Island in Minneapolis.
“We’ve hiked around a lot of lakes: Como, White Bear Lake and the Coon Rapids Dam,” Masso said. “We were just at Lake of the Isles. We’ve been to Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and the Rose Gardens, Hidden Falls, Rice Creek, Bruce Vento Trail, and Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden.”
They don’t set out if the weather is threatening, though.
The only requirement to participate, Masso said, is substantial, waterproof shoes. Some members use walking sticks, he said. Bug spray and sunscreen are suggested, as well.
“A city employee comes with us, and brings a first aid kid,” he said. “They’ve been extremely helpful.”
“Once a month, the Hiking Club stops for coffee afterwards,” Masso said. “About 10 to 15 people get together at a fast-food place afterwards and just sit and talk.”
During the winter, a group of club members meets every Wednesday to walk at Silverwood Park.
Walking comes naturally to Masso. “My parents grew up in the Midway area of St. Paul, and they never had a car; they took the streetcar,” he said. “My folks would walk from Hamline University to Sears and the State Capitol and back home.”
Now, Masso and his wife walk five times a week. Masso also bikes 1,500 miles a year, he said.
Through the years, the hiking group has continued to be really well organized, according to Masso. “The city is concerned about its seniors,” he said. “A lot of us volunteer at other things at the New Brighton Senior Center. As we age, we have to keep very active.”
Masso is retired from a career as a food inspector with the Department of Agriculture.
The Massos have three children who were runners; all five of the couple’s grandchildren are involved in sports.
Masso also is active with a car club, and with Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Paul, a congregation that collaborates with 15 other churches across the Twin Cities to feed and minister to people on the street in the Midway area.
What the experts say about walking
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which could include walking.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, it is possible to walk your way to health. “The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits,” the website said.
The website explains:
“Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated,” the website said. “Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.
“For example, regular brisk walking can help you:
•Maintain a healthy weight
•Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
•Strengthen your bones and muscles
•Improve your mood
•Improve your balance and coordination
Technique is important, too. Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here’s how you’ll look when you’re walking, according to the website:
•Your head is up. You’re looking forward, not at the ground.
•Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
•You’re swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
•Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
•You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
The website points out other considerations:
•Get the right gear. Choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock. Wear comfortable clothes and gear appropriate for various types of weather. If you walk outdoors when it’s dark, wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility.
•Choose your course carefully. If you’ll be walking outdoors, avoid paths with cracked sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs or uneven turf. If the weather isn’t appropriate for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.
•Warm up. Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for exercise.
•Cool down. At the end of your walk, slow down for five to 10 minutes to help your muscles cool down.
•Stretch. After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles. If you’d rather stretch before you walk, remember to warm up first.”
Additional information from the Arthritis Foundation notes that walking improves circulation, lightens the mood, can lead to weight loss, strengthens muscles, improves sleep, supports your joints, improves your breath, slows mental decline, and lowers Alzheimer’s risk.