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Blue Zones walking groups begin

Rain or shine, ‘Moais’ begin

Walking moai participant Summit Bohannon, center, talks about possible types of moais (mow-eyes), or groups, that could be formed. The blue umbrellas were handed out by Blue Zones Project staffers to keep the rain at bay at the inaugural walking moai on Tuesday on the Riverfront Trail. Several moais were formed to accommodate different walking speeds, locations and times. Each will be asked to commit to meeting weekly for 10 weeks.

Photo by Neita Cecil
Walking moai participant Summit Bohannon, center, talks about possible types of moais (mow-eyes), or groups, that could be formed. The blue umbrellas were handed out by Blue Zones Project staffers to keep the rain at bay at the inaugural walking moai on Tuesday on the Riverfront Trail. Several moais were formed to accommodate different walking speeds, locations and times. Each will be asked to commit to meeting weekly for 10 weeks.



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Participants warm up before the inaugural walking moai sponsored by the Blue Zones Project on Tuesday. The moais, or groups with a common purpose, are designed to get people socializing as well as exercising.

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Arlo Robertson, 18 months, of The Dalles, sports a new Blue Zones Project t-shirt that he got when he came with his mom, Diana Robertson, to the inaugural walking moai, or group, on Tuesday on the Riverfront Trail.

A smattering of blue umbrellas moved along the Riverfront Trail Tuesday as a group of hardy walkers, undeterred by a light rain, participated in the Blue Zones Project’s first walking group.

It was 15 minutes out and back, and then it was time to sort into individual walking moais (mow-eyes). The moais included one for early birds, one for evening time, another for any mode of transport that was on wheels, one for hiking, one for a slower pace, and even one for picking up trash while walking.

For more information on the moais, contact Taylor Smith at 541-705-5346 or taylor.smith@sharecare.com.

Moai is a Japanese word that roughly translates as “meeting for a common purpose.”

The term is borrowed from Okinawa, one of five places in the world, dubbed Blue Zones, where experts found the highest concentration of people living to 100.

The Blue Zones Project in The Dalles is a three-year effort to boost community wellness in The Dalles. It seeks to incorporate into communities the nine habits found among those who live the longest. Those habits include lots of socializing, moving naturally, eating a plant-based diet and having purpose in life.

The walking moais are not so much about exercise as they are about socializing, and the 15 or so people who showed up for the walking moai were more than up for that.

It was an upbeat group, with one person walking into the Blue Zones offices and playfully chiding a staffer, “Hey, great day you picked!”

Before the walk, they limbered up with a goofy game of going around in a circle and saying what exercise they liked to do, and then everybody mimicked it, as a way to get moving.

Staffers handed out Blue Zones t-shirts and blue umbrellas that said “Live longer better.”

Vicki Markum of The Dalles said she came in an effort to maintain her health. She already utilizes plenty of local resources, including a walking group that meets at Sorosis Park and groups for pain management and weight management.

“I hear ‘There’s not much to do here,’ and I say, ‘Oh yes there is.’”

The moais are sorted into the speed of the walkers and the time and place they’d like to meet. Each moai was asked to have a leader who would communicate with the group. Blue Zones is asking people to commit to participating in the moai weekly for 10 weeks.

In another Blue Zones Project community, officials found that 60 percent of participants in moais were still gathering long after the 10-week commitment ended.

Pam Reindel of The Dalles met a new person during the moai, and the two of them plan to form their own moai – one with no hills and not much distance.

“I retired about a year and a half ago and I was a manager of a motel, so I basically lived there: 10-12 hours days, seven days a week. So when I retired I was basically cut off, I wasn’t involved with anything or anybody because I was so involved with my job and I’m just trying to get back into the community and find things that interest me.”

Her new walking buddy told her she couldn’t do hills, and Reindel said, “I can’t either because I can’t breathe.”She and her walking buddy found themselves lagging behind the main group, which actually began to sort itself naturally into different speeds of groups fairly quickly.

A duo at the front of the group quickly left the pack. “They were flat hoofin’,” Reindel observed.

As for her own goals, she said, “I’m just trying to take care of myself.” She and her new walking buddy were talking about different places they could walk. They exchanged phone numbers and are planning to arrange something soon. Reindel said of the walking moai concept, “It’s getting to know people, but in the same breath, you have to be with somebody that is at your own pace.”



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