Some of the senior citizens who walk at Rancho Cienga Park have been doing so for decades. As one group member said, “You just can‘t have a body sitting all the time. You‘ve got to get out and walk.” Photo by Jason Lewis
Ever since he was a teenager Willie Holmes has had what he calls “a bad heart.” Not deterred by his predicament he took the advice of former USC All-American Brice Taylor and exercised every day, while making sure not to overexert himself. As he got older Holmes developed back and knee problems. Faced with an expensive surgery, Holmes met with several doctors before one told him that his pain actually could be alleviated without surgery. The doctor noticed that Holmes wasn’t doing any specific exercises for his pain, and advised the former baseball player to walk the stairs in his apartment building 100 times a day. So confident in his recommendation was the doctor that he offered to perform the surgery for free if Holmes was still in pain after following the regimen for six months. As Holmes puts it, “I ain’t had back problems since.” Now 81, Holmes is part of a group of seniors that walks the track at Rancho Cienega Park every weekday. Some of the seniors, like retired L.A. Times employee Daniel E. Brown, don’t have athletic backgrounds, but adopted the practice once the opportunity presented itself. “When I retired from the Times about eight years ago, I retired on Friday, I came out here on Monday, and started walking. I’ve been walking five days a week,” said Brown, 84. Other seniors, like James Anderson, adopted walking or running while in their younger days. The Indiana native visits Los Angeles during the colder season every year. The 78-year-old has been walking the track at Rancho Cienega for over a decade and does about eight to twelve laps on the track four or five days a week. Anderson says he got into running while training for the military’s annual fitness test. Some of seniors have even been coming to the park for decades. Frank Smith Jr. has been walking the track for 40 years, and currently walks two miles every day. “Walking is the best thing in the world,” said Smith Jr., 89. “You just can‘t have a body sitting all the time. You‘ve got to get out and walk.”
Dr. Rebecca S. Alleyne is a board certified surgeon in Los Angeles. She believes that people should walk as much as they can during daily errands to lose weight or build muscle. But she advises people to be smart about getting in shape. “Anyone regardless of age should let their physician know they are starting a new exercise routine,” Alleyne said. “This is particularly true for people with heart or lung problems, or people who've had blood vessel related diseases like stroke or bad arteries in the legs since they may be more prone to hidden heart conditions.” Walking at the park has also allowed the seniors to become a close-knit group. Trudy Williams and Joan E. Spencer walk at the park every day, barring rain. “After our walk, we have our podium here,” said Williams while pointing at a section near the bottom of the bleachers. “Where we sit, and we talk, and we solve the problems of the world.”
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