Go the distance on National Walking Day

Diana Hammond, left, and her neighbor, Maureen McQuade, both of Harmeswood of Belle Aire, walk along the multimodal path on El Camino Real as they carry a 10-foot-long piece of caution tape to ensure they keep the appropriate amount of physical distance between them.

Maureen McQuade and Diana Hammond were hard to miss on their recent walk near their neighborhood. The Harmeswood of Belle Aire residents enjoyed walking together while holding 10 feet of caution tape between them. “We used the tape to make sure we keep that distance,” McQuade said. “We thought it was the greatest thing we’ve ever done because it made people smile and people would give us a thumbs-up when we walked by.” Villages residents can get in a safe walk indoors or outdoors to celebrate National Walking Day, which is today. Walking is so important, it was one of the outdoor activities that Sumter County officials encouraged residents to continue as they cope with a stay-at-home advisory. Commission Chairman Steve Printz signed off Tuesday on an extended state of emergency for the county, but made sure to tout the value of outdoor activities, like walking, noting it was one of the reasons residents could temporarily leave their homes, as long as the exercise followed the advice of social distancing

and size of groups, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social distancting guidelines dictate that people stay 6 feet apart and avoid groups of more than 10.

McQuade, who usually is an archer and a golfer, has taken up walking 2 to 3 miles every day. She said she has been able to enjoy the scenery on her walking route down Buena Vista Boulevard while getting exercise.

“Sometimes we’re rushing around and don’t take the time to look at what we’ve got. It’s really beautiful here and it’s a pleasure to walk around. We’re so lucky to have the space and freedom to do what we’re doing now: walking and not running into crowds.”

The caution tape allowed her to spend time with her friend while also showing people how far apart 6 feet truly is.

“It started out to be fun and it got people smiling, but it’s also a visual reminder we all need,” she said.

McQuade is passing out the tape to friends and encouraging them to follow her lead.

Anne Horton and her daughter, Isla-Faye Horton, 3, spent their Tuesday morning walking around Paradise Park on the walking path.

Horton and her daughter are from England, and due to travel restrictions, are on an extended vacation in Florida. They are staying with her parents and grandmother and are making the most of it.

“We walk every morning as a way to get some fresh air and burn off energy,” she said. “This morning we’re going on a picnic breakfast later.”

While they miss England, the duo said they were glad to be in Florida.

“It’s just so beautiful outside,” Horton said. “We love getting to walk around. In England, it’s rainy and chilly.”

Kaye Weathers, of the Village of Dunedin, takes a walk every day to provide some stimulus and get some fresh air.

“I walk around the neighborhood but I always make sure to keep 6 feet between me and other people out walking,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of activities you can do if you want to stay safe, so walking is a great relief.”

Jan Van Vlack, founder and president of The Walking Villagers, said she walks every evening even though the club currently isn’t walking together due to proper distancing.

“I spoke with my cardiologist about how much I’m walking and she said it’s a great way to stay healthy,” said Van Vlack, of the Village of Linden.

She said walking is beneficial for all aspects of health, from stronger bones to better mood. She said she loves walking and has walked 15,700 miles since 2011.

Those who are taking extra precautions also have the option to participate from home.

Janet Batsa normally teaches Walk Away the Pounds at Moyer Recreation Center and lately has been walking from her own home. The class involves walking in place for the desired length of time.

“You can do 3 miles, 4, 5, or you can do 1,” the Village of Pine Ridge  resident said.

Batsa has been following along to “Walk at Home” DVDs, on which the class is based. She said there also is an option to subscribe and watch online for a fee.

For those who don’t want to spend the money, Basta recommends walking at home to upbeat music like Motown.

“You can do knee lifts, kicks and back kicks, and all different things to make it interesting,” she said.

Basta said she walked three days last week and set a goal to walk five days this week.

Staff writer Maddie Cutler can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5386, or maddie.cutler@thevillagesmedia.com.Staff writer Liz Coughlin can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5304, or liz.coughlin@thevillagesmedia.com.