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As a dietitian and diabetes educator, Bonnie Markle knows how important regular exercise is for overall health. She also knows many people aren't as active as they should be.
"Sixty-six percent of the population is overweight and obese, and there's a lot of chronic illness," she said. "One thing we can all do is to take a look at ourselves and start walking and eating better."
The Beaufort resident is organizing a weekly "Walk and Talk" group at the recently opened Spanish Moss Trail so people can exercise together and discuss healthy habits.
The idea started when Markle and her husband began walking a three-mile loop five or six times a week from their home in Cottage Farms and up and down the one-mile trail. Markle wanted to include others after attending a continuing education conference on weight management last fall .
Some friends joined her, and Markle decided to issue an open invitation to the community to meet at 1 p.m. Mondays at the trailhead at the Beaufort Depot, starting Jan. 7.
Her plan is to walk and talk about exercise and eating.
"A lot of people just don't have the opportunity to talk with a dietitian," she said. "I like to walk with people, and I like to share the information I have."
Markle hopes the Monday walks also will give people a chance to meet exercise partners for other days of the week.
"Once you start getting into the habit, it kind of feeds on itself and you want to do it more," she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity -- such as fast walking -- a week, and children should get an hour every day.
Not only does physical activity help control weight, but people who move around live longer and are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers, according to the CDC.
"One of the ways to prevent diabetes is you can get off the couch," Markle said. "If you are pre-diabetic, you don't have to become a diabetic. You can go out and watch your weight and what you're eating."
The Monday walks will be about two miles, once up and down the trail, but Markle said people can walk more or less depending on how much time and stamina they have. She advised inactive people to consult their doctors before starting exercise.
The existing leg of the Spanish Moss Trail runs between Allison and Depot roads. Beaufort County is starting the process to extend the path north. The long-term goal is for the trail to stretch from the Port of Port Royal to the Whale Branch River and beyond.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.