Making Healthy Choices

Beauty like these spring flowers cannot be enjoyed in a gym. Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

A recent editorial in The Post Journal (dated 04/13/2017 and entitled “Make Healthier Choices”) made an impression on me. Some of the statistics used in the editorial were real eye-openers. For example, it stated that Chautauqua County ranked the 54th healthiest county in New York state out of 62. Even though this was an improvement over last year’s ranking of 58th, in reality, we are the 8th unhealthiest county in the state. This saddens me because making healthy choices doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.

The editorial also stated that only 69 percent of our residents say they have access to exercise, whereas the state average is 91 percent. The author made a valid point when he said, “One doesn’t need to live next to a gym to have access to exercise.” Here in Chautauqua County, we have a plethora of venues for exercise. One of our greatest assets is our miles and miles of outdoor trails.

To begin with, The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail covers almost 24 miles in the western section of the county. To the east, there are nearly 20 miles of trails in the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail. We also have the Chautauqua Rails to Trails (CR2T) system and the Riverwalk, which continues to grow and get better and better. Hiking is also good at many Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy nature preserves, the Jamestown Audubon Nature Center, the Roger Tory Peterson Institution, the 100 Acre Lot and many more places around the county. Almost everywhere you look, there’s a trail to walk and explore! You can look up the information on the trails on the internet, and there are many places where you can get paper maps of the trails.

Keeping track of how far you walk is a real exercising plus. With a smart phone or FitBit, you can keep track of your steps and how many calories you burn. My sister has an app for a walking program on her phone, and she loves it! My daughter-in-law keeps track of her steps and calorie burn with her FitBit. I’m not quite so techy with my LifeTrak, but I am happy that I can keep track of my steps and calorie burn on a daily basis.

I set my device up with my personal daily goals. I try to walk at least 6,000 steps a day, and most days, I get in anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 steps. I haven’t been doing as well with my mileage goal, though. I set that for five miles per day but have only been averaging around three. I would like to burn 2,500 calories a day but have been falling short with that also. But I’m not giving up! Every day I try again to reach or surpass those marks.

I do have access to a gym, which I try to visit five to six times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each day. Swimming five days a week is also on my agenda, but if I had my druthers, outside I would be – enjoying nature!

Walking outside has so many benefits. The fresh air and sunshine brightens your mood and put a spring into your step. I don’t walk with ear buds in either. I want to hear the birds singing and the squirrels chattering. I want to see the flowers blooming and smell their sweet scents. I want it all – to feel, hear, see, and smell my surrounding and to stay healthy. I want to change the statistics, to make our county a healthier place to live, work and play. Hope to see you on our trails and waterways!

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. On Tuesday at 7 p.m., the CWC will be holding a special presentation, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Algae Growth in Chautauqua Lake.” For more information on this and other CWC programs, call 664-2166 or visit or