Nina Larson, Marsha Brunkhorst, and Rita Goveronski with Diane Gavic after completing their first Exerstrider lesson. Photo by Kaye Bird
Nina Larson, Marsha Brunkhorst, and Rita Goveronski with Diane Gavic after completing their first Exerstrider lesson. Photo by Kaye Bird
SPRING VALLEY, WI - It's called Exerstrider, and it's getting rave reviews from local folks as well as national magazines. "It's new, it's hot, and it's coming to a neighborhood near you," proclaims Walking Magazine. Family Circle suggests, "Put some muscle in your hustle with walking poles called Exerstrider." It's also been called the "World's #1 total body walking poles."

The two poles don't come cheap, but here's some very good news indeed. Thanks to the efforts of Diane Gavic of Spring Valley, Heather Conway of the ADRC (Aging & Disability Resource Center) of Pierce County, and an Allina Healthy Activity Grant, the poles are yours for the asking, but you will also be asked to make a commitment to walk regularly using the poles. Take it from this reporter whose daily routine consists of three walks in the woods with Dharma Dog and is now using Exerstrider, if you try it, you will most definitely like it.

Users can confidently throw that "no pain, no gain" myth out the window. With these poles, you gently and aerobically exercise all the body's major muscles at the same time. That's the beauty of it. And for those of us who haven't seen 50 in quite some time (and even for those who have), Exerstrider protects knees-always a plus in this Baby Boomer's book.

So, how was Spring Valley selected to receive this grant? It was quite a process. Gavic, who has used all kinds of walking poles explained. "I first heard about Exerstrider when I was at a Farmers Market, and a guy in his 40s was promoting them. He had had a stroke, and he felt the walking poles were huge in his recovery," she said.
Gavic, who has had an ongoing interest in how to better serve seniors in the area, believed that anyone over 50 could certainly benefit from exercise, and Exerstrider looked like it was made to order for this age group.

"I have seen the walking poles being used by all sorts of ages, and so I recommended this for a grant idea along with articles on how it had helped seniors, taken from the Exerstrider Web Page. I also contacted the company, and they were great in giving us the poles at 50% off normal cost," said Diane. The company is located in Madison, Wisconsin.

Conway knew that both Gavic and Village Administrator Rita Goveronski were trying to come up with ideas on how to get local seniors more active. "Heather has been working with us on ways to get more involvement with the SV Senior Citizens Center, and she was the one who first received notice about the grant being available from Allina Health," explained Gavic. Heather wrote the grant, and Allina Health liked the idea so much they contacted her and doubled the grant to include not just Spring Valley, but also the Ellsworth Senior Citizens Center.

In the letter to Heather, Allina wrote, "Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a 2013 Neighborhood Health ConnectionTM Healthy Activity Grant from Allina Health. We were impressed with your ideas for helping neighbors connect with each other through healthy activities and are pleased to support your activity/activities." The competition for these grants was significant. Out of 243 applications, only 73 grants were awarded.

Diane is making an effort in both communities to get seniors exercising. "I have gone over to Ellsworth to do a lesson with the seniors, and I am working on getting a group together there also," she said.

For people in the Spring Valley area, the process is simply. "If anyone is interested in trying the poles, they should contact me at 651-261-5603 or 715-698-4050," said Gavic.

Those who are already using the poles will soon be hearing from Diane. "I will be contacting the various people trying out the poles to see how they are doing. For very little more effort you get a good upper body workout. My hope is to have a Nordic Walking Group that can meet once or twice a month and walk and visit. This is part of the 'senior' idea to promote community and get people together," she said.

If you've been thinking about an exercise program, it's time to get off the couch. A new study from Harvard, suggests that inactivity can be as hazardous to your health as smoking and that a sedentary lifestyle is the cause of one in 10 deaths worldwide.

For seniors, walking is an excellent exercise. Ask those who are already using Exerstrider, and they will tell you, it's the best walking "companion" they have ever had.