When Ken Rederburg, an 78-year-old Conwayite, decided to embark on a walking regimen, he was working on the theory that you’re never too old to exercise. He was following in the footsteps of illustrious walkers like Paul of biblical fame, American author Henry David Thoreau, nature’s Johnny Appleseed, and other walkers of prominence
Study after study attest to the findings that people over 70 live longer and better if they’re physically active, And in fact seniors who began physical activity between the ages 78 and 85 improved their odds of survival.
Rederburg was propelled by the onset of illness, but his physical condition aside, he quickly learned that walking is a wondrous business with countless benefits. He attests to the fact that walking makes him feel good about himself and he gives credit to what many experts call the “perfect exercise”.
Walkers know that their avocation is cheap, and you can’t get hurt unless you step into a hole, and it’s possible to walk any time. Walking’s praise “ You can’t ask for more than that.” holds true.
At the Conway Health and Fitness Center, Rederburg is something of a celebrity. He has, says Amanda Castillo, marketing coordinator and personal trainer, likely walked more than most of the hordes of walkers at the facility, some 500 miles on the fitness floor track.
The man is, of course, a devotee of walking and is inclined to urge everyone he sees to set goals for themselves.
More than two years back, Rederburg did that. He had suffered a stroke and received treatment at the Conway Regional Hospital and then at the Conway Regional Rehab Facility and later at the Salem Nursing Home.
He set goals but it was easier said than done. He began with walking around his hospital bed and he stayed dedicated to this healing process for his body.
“When I began, I was very shaky and I used a walker and then a cane,” he said. Improvement came slowly but surely and he walked diligently. He ultimately retired the cane and gleefully raffled it off at a function at the center. He was off on a regimen of walking five days a week. He began at up to two miles a day - difficult to say the least- but he eventually increased his mileage to four miles (44 laps on the center’s track). Since then he has increased his output to five miles day.
Rederburg is believes fervently that there is a positive link between walking and good health. He believes the risk reduction seen through walking on cardio-vascular disease is good news, only if people will heed it. And so it is with people with high blood pressure with type two diabetes, and in the management of blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
For walkers like Rederburg, the psychological benefits of walking, such as gaining self-confidence and self-esteem and a reduction in the effects of depression are wonderful byproducts. Some experts call walking a great “mood enhancer.”
His interviewer caught up with Rederburg the other day after he had completed a 5-mile walk in an hour and 40 minutes. He looked none the worse for wear and, in fact shipshape, breathing easily and appearing quite pleased with himself,
He has been doing that five days a week, working on a program of his own choosing. “I love it; I enjoy it. I feel good; my lungs are fine and my heart is pumping well,” he quipped.
The affable man has been fighting back after he was felled two years ago when multiple ailments almost “done him in”. On that fateful day in the government housing apartment where he lives - he is a widower - Rederburg caved in. The left side of his body was paralyzed and only by the dint of a horrendous struggle was he able to summon his doctor who demanded he call 911 quickly.
After intense treatment he prevailed with the help of cardio physicians, and after a sojourn in the hospital - where he began his rehab by walking around his hospital bed - he was released to various therapists. His recovery was well under way.
Redenburg lives a fairly Spartan life; he has no automobile and per force must rely on the Senior Citizens Center for transportation to and from the fitness center. At times, friends he has made at the center make transportation available.
His life away from the fitness center is centered in the Bible. “I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover 13 times and now I’m on the 14 reading. That’s my life, plus listening to Christian music,” he says.
His plans for the future are wrapped up in his goals of activity. “I will go as far and as long as I can or want to. I love what I’m doing now.” Yet on reflection, he says he would like to hit 750 miles and “then perhaps 1,000.”
He has told Costello that “I am doing this to inspire others. If I can do it, others can do it too.”
Although walking may not be the best exercise for all people, it is a valuable option for those who thirst for self-improvement and who think that walking is the best way to achieve good health.