Last September, New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE), in collaboration with Stonewall Sports New Orleans,launched a walking group. I’d been running with the Stonewall Prancers group each Monday, but I never could quite keep up with them. I got to thinking that a walking group for people who are new to fitness (or just trying to get back in shape) would be a great new program for NOAGE. This walking group is for ALL fitness levels, ALL ages, ALL genders, and ALL body types. You can go at your own pace. Whether that’s running, jogging, leisurely walking, or using a wheelchair or walker, this group is for you. If you are worried that you’ll be left behind, don’t. Someone will walk with you. If you are the fastest person there, we’ll see you at the finish line.
Since the launch last fall, we’ve met every Monday, and have built a core group of participants who show up each week. As with every NOAGE program I’ve been involved with, it’s given me the opportunity to meet and get to know some truly wonderful people. We meet on Mondays at 6:40pm in the parking area off the Magazine Street entrance to Audubon Park (6500 Magazine St.). Kenn Mitchell, a member of the NOAGE Board of Directors, leads the group, and I’m usually there too. Every few weeks, the Stonewall Prancers join us. If you’ve never walked with us before, or if you haven’t been in a while, I hope to see you there very soon. Here’s why:
1) You Will Improve Your Physical Health According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the best thing you can do for your physical health is increase your physical activity. Frieden wrote, “Even if you don’t lose an ounce, you’ll live longer, feel healthier, and be less likely to get cancer, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. It’s the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” In particular, walking can counteract the effects of genes that predispose you to being overweight, and it has been shown to reduce cravings for sugary snacks. It also reduces joint pain and boosts immune function.
2) You Will Improve Your Mental Health The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends aerobic exercise to “improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.”
Just thirty minutes of regular brisk walking can help you achieve these long-term benefits. But there are more immediate benefits. A 2017 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that even one 30-minute session of moderate exercise can almost immediately improve body image, self-perception, and mood.
3) You Will Make New Friends Our walking group is a fantastic way to meet new people. A 1988 review of research literature found that “social isolation is on par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.” This is especially true for LGBT older adults, whose social networks tend to shrink as they age. That’s why NOAGE has made it a priority to build community by providing opportunities for socialization, including coffee talks, movie nights, potlucks, and more.
Adults of all ages are welcome at our events, and our attendees range in age from college students to people in their 80s. You’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse group of amazing people. I consider NOAGE to be more than just an organization. It’s a family. And if you think that sounds corny, you’re right! But it’s true, and I hope that, in addition to joining the walking group, you will check out some of our other events. (For more information on all upcoming NOAGE events and services, visit www.noagenola.org/events.)
4) You Can Get Conditioned for More Vigorous Exercise Stonewall Sports New Orleans has a great variety of different sports leagues you can join: bowling, volleyball, dodgeball, kickball, and yoga. (They also started a trivia league earlier this year, and the next season will be coming up soon.) And, as I mentioned above, the Stonewall Prancers running group joins our walking group every few weeks. If you’re not quite ready for more vigorous exercise, our group can give you a great jump start, and improve your motivation to get into better physical condition. For more information about Stonewall Sports New Orleans, visit stonewallneworleans.leagueapps.com.
5) You Can Join Us at Other Walks & Races The New Orleans Pride Run and Walk is sponsored by the New Orleans Track Club. This year, it will be at Crescent Park on Saturday, August 31, and the NOAGE walking group will be participating. You can register for that now at www.runnotc.org. Be sure to join the NOAGE group when you register! Funds raised at this event will benefit PFLAG New Orleans. The 2019 Walk to End HIV (formerly known as the NO/AIDS Walk) will be on Sunday, September 29, and NOAGE will have a walking team for that event as well. (It’s still too early to register for that just yet, but the event website is at noaidswalk.com).
Be sure to consult with a physician before beginning any new fitness regimen, especially if you are not used to regular exercise.
If you’re still not yet sure you want to join the walking group, and would like to learn more about NOAGE first, check out our website at www.noagenola.org. Better yet, come to our next potluck on Tuesday, June 25, 6:30-8:30 at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church (1313 Esplanade). We meet in the Parish House (the building to the right of the church itself, at the corner of Esplanade Ave. and Marais St.). If you’re able, please bring a dish, but it’s not required. You can also bring nonperishable items for St. Anna’s food drive. There is an accessible ramp on the Marais Street side of the building, but the parking is limited, so be sure to arrive early if you can.
These monthly potlucks are probably our most popular recurring event, and we always get a great crowd of people. If you don’t know whom to talk to, come sit at my table. But believe me, after the great meal we have, we’re gonna need to walk it off sooner than later!