| Jerry Siegel|
Kings County Hospital Wellness Center Director Jerry Siegel has seen the benefits of walking for his patients who are battling diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. Siegel, who has two Masters Degrees – one in Public Health from Columbia University School of Public Health, and the other in Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Queens College – talks to HHC Today about the benefits of the training and fitness center for patients and hospital staff, and how to walk your way to a healthy heart.
How do you describe this walking program?
We offer supervised walking and exercise training for adult patients and an after-school program for children and teens. The typical exercise session lasts 75 minutes and consists of a 5-10 minute warm-up; 45-55 minutes of aerobic exercise, mainly walking on the treadmill, performed at a low to moderate intensity; and a 5-10 minute cool-down. Staff members monitor and instruct patients as they exercise to ensure that they are complying with their exercise program in a safe and effective manner.
Who are your patients?
We serve adults with diabetes and children and teens who are overweight or obese. The kids are 11 to 19 years old. The adults range from their 20s to their 70s, and 75 percent are women. We have a total of about 3,100 patient visits a year. In our afterschool program, we teach children and adolescents at an early age the importance of exercise and movement to your overall strength and health.
Why is walking so healthy?
We all know the importance of being physically active and some people have taken that to mean that you have to become a marathon runner to be physically fit. But that is not the case at all. Walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can have a great impact on your health. It strengthens the heart and reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. It helps patients manage their Type 2 diabetes, and control and reduce their high blood pressure. It helps to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). It helps with weight loss and maintenance. Walking is gentle, low impact, and everyone can do it.
What kind of equipment do you need?
All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Most brands now have great walking shoes. The trick is that the shoes have to be comfortable right out of the box. There is no such thing as breaking in shoes. If they are comfortable in the store, they are good.
Is there a right way or wrong way to walk?
Everyone has their own style, their own gait. But the right way to walk is to walk erect and tall. Shoulders should be aligned with hips and the arm swing should be parallel to the direction that you are walking.
How can we incorporate walking into our daily lives?
Walk instead of taking the elevator, and walk over to your colleague’s desk or office instead of calling or emailing them! You eventually want to get to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But the secret is to build up to 30 minutes gradually. And if you can’t do it all at once, break it up into intervals of 10 minutes.
What are patients saying after they’ve incorporated walking into their lives?
Some patients say they sleep, feel and look better, and that even their skin looks healthier. Some have even said that I have saved their lives. I say, “No, you saved your own life, I just opened the door.”