It’s not always easy to make new friends and find the time to get in some cardio, but for one group of local residents, it’s a walk in the park.
The Maitland Public Library is giving local residents an outlet to socialize and exercise with its Maitland Walks group, taking place at 7 a.m. Thursdays.
Walkers wake up bright and early to start their route from the library, walking around Lake Lily twice and Lake Catherine twice before arriving back at the start of the walk. There’s multiple variations of the route the group can choose, including one that runs along Lake Sybelia.
It’s an initiative started by the library and the city of Maitland with the help of Healthy Central Florida, a community-based partnership with a goal of helping residents move more, eat healthier and generally feel better.
There is a core group of about 10 walkers in Maitland Walks, but new people come out to join the walks frequently, Maitland Public Library Director Stacie Larson said.
“It’s definitely a community,” she said. “We get anywhere from four to 15 people on a Thursday morning. … They come here just to walk together and spend that time in camaraderie and have some coffee. They certainly don’t come for the coffee; they come for each other.”
Orlando resident Elizabeth Maupin started coming to the walks about three years ago, when she was invited by a friend. She has made it a habit to go every week because it gets her outside, Maupin said.
“If I don’t exercise on a schedule, I’m just not going to do it,” Maupin said. “I love to walk, but I wouldn’t be out by myself doing it probably. Being on a schedule really gets me moving.”
Longwood resident Mary Burns said she walks with the group to bring a sense of structure to her life after retirement — and meet some new people, she said.
“You just get to walk and talk with someone and hear their life story or their interests,” she said. “I’ve met interesting people. It’s the social (aspect), although I need the exercise, but its a way to get that those things done together.”
Maitland Walks is still hitting its stride. In 2013, the library’s Healthy Maitland Committee got a health innovation grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation to formalize Maitland Walks.
“If you go around town and around parks and over on the west side of town in the Maitland Concourse area, you will see every 10th of a mile embedded in the sidewalk a Maitland Walks emblem,” Larson said.
The walk is also just one part of what the library offers to keep residents healthy. It also hosts yoga and healthy cooking classes.
“It’s so much easier to exercise when you have somebody encouraging you to do it, too,” Larson said. “It just makes the walk go faster. … It makes it not seem like work — it seems like fun.”
Maitland isn’t the only community to start a walk. Winter Park and Eatonville also offer regular walks that were started with the help of Healthy Central Florida.