Does it surprise you as much as it does us that the first day of February occurs Saturday?

Where in the heck did January go? Were you one of the 83 percent of Americans who made New Year’s resolutions that have already fallen by the wayside before this month is out?

Did you vow to improve your health, to live a more healthful lifestyle, to eat more nutritiously, lose weight and get more exercise?

Maybe a gym membership seems beyond your budget, the chilly weather prevented those outdoor activities you planned, and you haven’t found a way to jump-start your exercise regime.

Here is a foolproof, no excuses opportunity to get back on track for your own good health.

It is free. It is accessible to everyone. It is independent of weather. It … is walking.

Luckily in Galveston you can walk indoors regardless of weather conditions at places like the Galveston Island Community Center, 4700 Broadway, and a few other locations as well.

At the Community Center, any weekday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, you can walk on a safe, well-marked, well-lighted, climate-controlled indoor track enhanced by scenic photos of the island.

According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of all physical activities.

It is the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health.

Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

• Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease;

• Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels;

• Improve blood lipid profile;

• Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity;

• Enhance mental well being;

• Reduce the risk of osteoporosis;

• Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer; and

• Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent Type 2 diabetes.

If you need some structure and support to get your walking shoes in motion, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UTMB Health offers this challenge.

Can you walk across Texas? Gather some friends or neighbors or your family and form an eight-member Walk Across Texas team.

Anyone of any age can form a team and OLLI membership is not required. A team is one captain and no more than seven additional members for a total of eight, but the team can be smaller and individual walkers can register as well. And, did we mention, it is free?

Last year, eight OLLI teams, including many in the community who were not OLLI members, walked 18,407 miles.

The goal, this year is for 15 teams to walk 30,000 miles between Sunday and March 30. That’s the equivalent of walking from Orange to El Paso and back again — 21.5 times. It is a little more than 500 miles more than the circumference of the earth.

How far does each person need to walk every week if a team is to make the 830 miles across Texas?

For teams of eight, each person needs to average about 13 miles per week — about 1.75 miles every day. Some people walk more and others less.

Gradually work to increase your mileage to avoid injury. Be sensible while being persistent in your commitment.

Join with other OLLI teams and community teams to make Galveston a healthier place.

This program is co-sponsored by OLLI at UTMB Health and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

For questions or to register your team, call 409-763-5604. Tell them the Dr. Vic Sierpina referred you.

Be a part of Walk Across Texas and you will be ready to walk — or run — in UTMB’s Causeway FunD Run on March 8.

If you want even more free indoor physical activity, consider the OLLI fitness sessions Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It opens at 9 a.m. to anyone 55 and older living in Galveston County and beyond.

Augment your walking practice with some whole body exercise activities.

Try it for the eight weeks of Walk Across Texas.

See the results. Feel the improvement in your overall health and outlook on life. Take the challenge.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB. Michelle Sierpina, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UTMB Health.

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