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Fitness fanatics take a hike at Fort Totten

Outside the stony entrance of Fort Totten, a group of roughly 25 Queens residents stretch under the warm May sun as they prepare for a brisk morning walk. They are wearing pedometers to measure the steps and a personal trainer is guiding their stretches.

"Reach high," the trainer says. Today, the group will be focusing on leg work; last week they concentrated on shoulders. She shows them how to check their heart rate.

After a few minutes the group, which ranges from young mothers to baby boomers and seniors, start the walk. As they walk, the walkers punch the air in front of them, lift their knees or kick up their heels, all of which are exercises designed to give an extra workout. It only takes 35 minutes to cover roughly 2 miles. And because of conversation with other walkers and the change in exercises, it's over faster than it seems.

The walk is part of a new fitness program offered by the Parks Department, which brings a trainer from a nearby gym to coach a group of walkers as they stride along the Brooklyn Queens Greenway. The program is free and will be offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. from now until October 30.

And the best part about the fitness walk is that everyone can participate because everyone walks at their own pace, said Kertty Bolio, the personal trainer who coaches the walkers. Bolio is also the co-owner of Fitness Consultants, the gym that is sponsoring the program.

Free pedometers are given to each of the walkers so they can track their steps and their improvement. They also will monitor their heart rates after each walk. Bolio said she likes to give a little bit of instruction on some fitness topic before each walk.

What's different about this walk is that the walkers do intervals of other exercises, such as knee lifts, as they walk, Bolio said. This is meant to give the walkers a cardiovascular workout while also working out other muscles.

Whitestone resident Myles McPartlind, who walked with his wife Anne, is normally a runner, but is doing the walk as he recovers from an injury.

Friends Nancy Morse and Mindy Bernhard, both of Bayside, said attended the program's first walk, which was May 1, and said the walk helps them stay committed to working out. Like most of the walkers, it's the organization of the walk, Bolio's enthusiasm that brought them back.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, it's just doing it and feeling good about yourself afterwards," Bernhard said.

The walking program is part of the Parks Department's effort to bring more events to Northeast Queens, said Janice Melnick, parks administrator for Northeast Queens. The department also will offer a youth fitness program for children ages 8 to 12 this summer.

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