Health and Service — Volunteer Trail Docent


The benefits of becoming a volunteer trail guide are priceless: fitness, education and community service.

A faux heart attack — that moment when the ER doctor said that it was time to lighten the loads that I lift and to get more walking in — inspired this post. While the ER nurse peeled off the EKG electro pads that showed that my heart was fine, the doctor suggested, “Gardening is good, but have someone else carry in the heavy bags of potting soil. Remember, walking is ‘man’s best medicine,’ to quote Hippocrates.”

According to a brochure from the American Heart Association, research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

▪  Reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
▪  Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile.
▪  Maintain your body weight and lower the risk of obesity.
▪  Enhance your mental well-being.
▪  Reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
▪  Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer.
▪  Reduce your risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes.

With that advice, the list of walking events with a docent or nature volunteer listed in my local newspaper caught my attention. When I thought of the physical benefits of walking and the overall benefit of volunteering, I sensed a perfect well-being path.

Exploring the opportunities, I discovered that your state or county parks likely offer walking docent training.

For instance, through the nearby California State Park in Morro Bay, there are about 34 volunteers to lead walks along trails that wander through some of this region’s spectacular beaches and hillsides.

To become a walk docent, volunteers are trained and mentored about the natural elements along their route. Imagine, free education about local geology, wildlife, plants, environment and getting exercise at the same time.

You may also find local nonprofits that maintain natural areas with hiking trails. Many also offer walking docent tours, and are likely seeking new volunteers to train.

The benefits are priceless: fitness, education and community service.

Meanwhile, two large bags of potting soil wait for reassignment in the garden. One faux heart attack was enough for me for this decade. I’m thinking a walk through the forest makes more sense.

–excerpted from “By the Way We Give,” my monthly column in The Cambrian

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