Who’s Walking In Portland?

 “Every day, weather permitting, I walk up and down High Street on the sidewalk across from my house,” says Ben Foley. “When the weather is nice, I like to go to the Portland Reservoir or the Air Line Trail.”

As many Portland residents know, when Ben was 14 years old, he survived a stroke caused by a rare arterio-venous malformation (a type of aneurism) that resulted in partial paralysis and weakness on his left side. Recovery from that was slow and difficult, but with hard work in physical therapy, he regained the ability to walk a significant distance with a cane by the time he finished high school. By the time he finished college, he walked everywhere on campus.

But there’s more to Ben’s medical story and why he walks. In 2010, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which requires balancing diet, insulin, and blood sugar. During walks up and down the hill by his home, his Dexcom monitor reports his blood glucose level every 5 minutes, so he can see on the screen how walking brings that level down. These walks last for about one hour, or even 2 hours. Ben is proof that walking is healthy.

Asked what is most pleasurable about walking, Ben said, “I enjoy seeing people I know. I also have a walking meditation with specific mantras.”  As for any unpleasantness along the way, he said, “Loud cars or trucks can startle me; I am blind to my left side.”

Ben’s advice for new walkers: “Start slow, get your foot in the door, or rather outside the door, and progressively expand your habit. There’s a reason it’s called the great outdoors.”