Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was one of America's greatest poets. Perhaps his best know work was “Leaves of Grass,” which dealt with “democracy, nature, love, and friendship.” Less known about Whitman was his promotion of healthy lifestyles. 


Whitman's views about health are just now being revealed to modern audiences. A long-lost and just recently published manifesto by Whitman is called “Manly Health & Training: To Teach the Science of a Sound and Beautiful Body.” It's a collection taken from articles he wrote for the New York Atlas newspaper in 1858. In an article he proclaims to readers: “The world is full of zest and beauty for you, if you approach it in the right spirit!" 



Indeed, to Whitman good health is simply a practical matter. Linking wealth to health, he observes: “From a money-making point of view...health is an investment that pays better than any other." 


The publishing of Whitman's observations are even more apropos “as we speak.” Recently, the 2017 “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps” were announced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a group that “funds a wide array of programs which are working to help build a national Culture of Health.” The rankings for every county in the United States were based upon several criteria. In general, the main ones were: length of life, quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. (http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/michigan/2017/overview)


In Michigan's 83 counties, the healthiest county was Ottawa and the least healthy was Wayne. In our area, Missaukee ranked 21, Osceola was 35, and Lake was 81. Wexford County finished 65th. Interesting stats show that even though 81 percent of Wexford adults have access to exercise opportunities only 21 percent actually exercise. 


The good news is that warmer weather is on the way making that trend easier to reverse. It's a good time to take some advice by Whitman about a form of exercise that is inexpensive, effective, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. “Walking, or some form of it, is nature's great exercise — so far ahead of all others as to make them of no account in comparison."


Lucky for us, Cadillac has a great system of walking routes right in town. The Cadillac Walkways are a combination of the McKellop Walkway along Lake Cadillac, a section of the White Pine Trail between the City Park and Sunnyside Drive, and the Clam River Greenway from Lake Cadillac to 13th Street. Each has its own attributes, but together you can accomplish a 7.4 mile walk. (Around Lake Cadillac is 7.2 miles by comparison.) 


The segments of the various sections have specific lengths. I mapped these myself. The distances were all measured with a walking wheel provided by City of Cadillac engineers. Whether you walk an individual segment or piece together multiple segments you can calculate the distance. A distance chart (printable) is at:



If you want to combine a walk with a bit of Cadillac history, the Cadillac KISStory Tour might be an option. This 2.4 mile tour debuted last fall with the placement of four KISStorical markers encompassing the KISS Monument, Cadillac High School, and two locations in downtown Cadillac.


You begin at the KISS Monument on Chestnut Street at the southeast corner of Veterans Memorial Stadium. Each marker tells a part of the story of the KISS visit to Cadillac in 1975 (ranked as one the the top ten stories in the history of Rock and Roll). The markers all have maps directing you to the next stop. From marker four you return along the McKellop back to the KISS Monument. As you walk the tour, you can use your smart phone to access an audio narration (by yours truly) at http://kisscadillac.com/take-the-tour/. (which also has a printable map). Tour brochures are available at the Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau in the old firehouse building downtown (across from the Cadillac News building). And if you see me along the route, feel free to invite me to walk along with you. Old guys love to tell stories. 


As you head out to walk, you might want to consider one more thing – ski walking poles. I know, this may sound daffy and many of you good naturedly needle me about my poles when I stroll by, but there is a method to this madness. There are several reasons why walking with poles is better than walking without poles, but consider these few. Walking withs poles burns up to 40 percent more calories than walking without them. Poles provide upper body exercise without having to lift weights. They improve your posture because they force you to stand upright instead of hunching over (like with a cane). If you are a bit unsure on your feet, using poles gives you four points of balance rather than just two, sort of a 4-wheel drive effect. And let's not forget that poles can be used to ward off dogs that might be inclined to nip at your ankles. Check out the health benefits of ski walking poles at: https://skiwalking.com/nordic-walking/health-benefits/


To summarize, (if I may update a Whitman quote to the present day): “Good character and good health are linked. The first requisite to a young person is that they should be well and hardy; and that from such a foundation alone, they will be more apt to become good, upright, friendly, and self-respected."


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews


For Jim Neff's Cadillac KISStory website, click here

KISStory Tour Brochure
Download a KISStory Tour Brochure.
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.4 MB