Walkers get exercise with a view on J.E. McTeer Bridge

charley@beaufortgazette.comMay 22, 2012 

Beaufort's Suzette Fields, left, and Felecia Higginbottom walk up the J.E. McTeer Bridge on May 17 on Lady's Island.

SARAH WELLIVER/THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

Since opening in the fall, Beaufort's J.E. McTeer Bridge has become a gym of sorts, where people are getting a free workout along with a million-dollar view.

More and more people seem to be taking advantage of the bridge's one-mile walking path, which features a moderate but gradual incline.

During her daily commute to work at Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services' Port Royal clinic, Belinda Chaneyfield of Lady's Island noticed the steady steam of walkers on the bridge and was encouraged by seeing people of all shapes, sizes and ages.

"I would be driving home from work and see these people walking and I thought I'd give it a try, and found I really enjoy it," she said.

Walking the bridge has become contagious, she said. Her co-workers, whose ages range from 30 to 60, have joined in. The group starts out together, but spreads out over the walk, each advancing at her own pace. Some walk during their lunch breaks and others after work. They do it for their health and they do it for the camaraderie.

According to the walkers, complete strangers share encouraging words to each other as they climb the bridge.

"You will be walking and people we meet will say 'keep up the good work' and 'good job,' " Chaneyfield said.

She said she especially appreciates the freedom and the lack of expense of the workout.

"It doesn't require a gym membership, and I appreciate stuff like that."

HEALTH BENEFITS

Chaneyfield said she has lost weight, sleeps better and has increased her endurance since walking the bridge.

Dena Manning, a receptionist at the Port Royal clinic, said she has lost more than 20 pounds and lowered her blood pressure since starting her three-times-a-week walks on the bridge in March.

Manning also has discovered she has more energy and received a positive report from her physician recently.

"You really use all of your muscles, and you use all of your energy getting up that bridge," she said. "It makes me want to do more physically, o walk more and exercise more. I know my health is better for it; my doctor said she's proud of me."

THE SCENERY

The 360-degree view above the Beaufort River provides a distraction, easing workout pains. And the frequent breeze also helps keep walkers cool.

"The landscape changes depending on the time of day, time of the season and the tides," Chaneyfield said. "It is different as opposed to walking the same cement path every day. I enjoy the scenery because that's what makes it less like work. You don't really feel the workout when you are doing it, but afterward you do."

Manning agrees that the view and cool air help get her through the workout.

"You don't feel like you are straining," she said. "The breeze is good and the company is good, and the view changes."

THE CHALLENGE

Bridge walking has an added challenge for those who dare.

Joni Roblyer, director of radiology at the Port Royal clinic, said she used to walk three miles a day around Lady's Island Middle School.

"But going up that hill is a lot different," she said. "It puts more stress on your muscles."

Stretching before the walk has helped Roblyer avoid pain.

"I usually put my foot against something to stretch the back of my leg muscles and stand on my tiptoes to work the front muscles and do side-to-side dips or motions to loosen everything up," she said.

SETTING AN EXAMPLE

Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services' Port Royal clinic employees are a testament to their clients.

"It may be just me," Chaneyfield said, "but I have thought, especially since we work for a health facility, it is good to be an example. We have had patients who say, 'Oh, I saw you walking on the bridge,' so it lets them know that we are practicing what we preach to them.'"

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