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Nordic walkers take to the streets

They've been walking their neighborhood for about 11 years, but these days three New Richmond women are shaking up their routine just a bit.

Mary Sather, Anne Langford and Marilyn McCarty have taken up Nordic walking, a fitness routine that is fast gaining popularity among older adults. For the past month or so, the walking group has picked up canes, ski poles and walking sticks to try the latest craze.

Sather, 81, said the idea to start Nordic walking came from her husband, Irv.

"Irv's been after me to use canes for quite a while," she said. "I've ignored him."

But then Sather happened upon an article about Nordic walking that was published by the Mayo Clinic.

"Since they're a more highly respected health authority than Irv, we decided to give it a try," Sather said. "Irv is delighted to have been proven right."

Sather said the three walkers were amazed after a few days. Nordic walking works all of the major muscle groups, adding an upper body workout to the activity of walking.

The poles help provide more stability for walkers and improve one's posture by keeping the person more upright when they're walking. Nordic walking boosters claim the exercise is actually easier on the knees, lower back and hips than ordinary walking.

"It's more comfortable when you're walking," she said. "It is really beneficial exercise, and you don't even realize you're enhancing your walking. Any age can do this without any particular stress."

McCarty, 84, agrees that the new twist to their regular walks is a welcome change.

"It just helps so much," she said. "It's fantastic."

McCarty said Nordic walking does appear to take more energy and her heart rate is higher thanks to the additional movement. She claimed the overall benefits to her upper body and fitness level is obvious.

"It's given a whole new dimension to our walks," she said. "We're big fans of it now."

According to Langford, 76, the informal walking group got its start when she moved to town 11 years ago. The trio hits the streets promptly at 7 a.m. four days a week.

"It doesn't matter the temperature," she said. "It can be 40 below and we'll still go out. The only thing that stops us is rain."

The walkers make three loops around their Westside New Richmond neighborhood, totaling about 0.6 miles.

"It's really an interesting walk," Langford shared. "We have great conversations. It certainly is a wonderful way to start your day."

Sather said their conversations can extend beyond their scheduled walk, as the group often stands at the end of Sather's driveway to finish up their thoughts.

"We don't just solve New Richmond's problems," Sather said. "We tackle the nation's and the world's. We knew going into the Iraq war was a huge mistake, and we were right."

"We learn so much from each other," McCarty added. "We just laugh a lot and share the good and the bad. And we keep our eye on the neighborhood a little bit."

If you'd like to join a local walking group, New Richmond's Vitality Initiative offers several opportunities throughout the week.

The groups meet every week (unless the weather doesn't allow.) Anyone is welcome to stop by and join in.

There is no cost and no registration. The weekly groups allow participants to get some exercise and meet some new people.

The groups, walking times and meeting places are as follows:

Centre Trail Travelers, Mondays at 5:30 p.m., The Centre, 1-2 miles. Coordinator: AmandaFall,

Family Fresh Explorers, Wednesdays at 6 p.m. (started May 6), Family Fresh Market, about 2 miles. Coordinator: Mary Jo Brunner, mary.brunner@

Centre Trail Travelers, Thursdays at noon, The Centre, 1-2 miles. Coordinator: Jackie Huff,

Prairie Amblers, Saturdays at 8 a.m., Doar Prairie Restoration, 1.5 to 2 miles. Coordinator: Lori Catlow-Price, loricatlow@

Those interested in more walking can use two local New Richmond schools for indoor walking. One needs a pass to use the facilities.

Starr Elementary, Monday-Friday from 7-8:30 a.m.; Monday-Friday from 3:45-8 p.m. Contact Community Education; and Community Commons, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.