Gooden works to stay fit

Published 12:01 am Monday, October 24, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Juanita Gooden takes a walk down Natchez Street Friday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — Early morning downtown drivers see her walking all the time.

Juanita Gooden’s neighbors will tell you she is known for maintaining good health through a commitment to exercise on Natchez Street where The Dart landed Wednesday.

The Natchez native said she walks three miles a day — starting from her house on Natchez Street, near Duncan Park, and trekking all the way to the Natchez Grand Hotel and back.

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Gooden said it’s not just about keeping her weight down, but extending her quality of life since she is diabetic.

Gooden said walking every day, eating right and drinking lots of water helps keep her diabetes under control without requiring extra insulin or medications.

“The doctor said he is very impressed,” she said.

“I’ve been walking like this for more than a year. If it’s raining, and I can’t walk downtown, I go to the mall and walk.”

Gooden said when she first started her exercise routine she didn’t get very far. But as weight started to come off, she was able to increase her stamina. She is 20 pounds smaller than she was a year ago.

“I can walk much longer than I did when I first started out,” Gooden said. “Exercise helps you mentally as well.”

While Gooden, 45, is pleased with her progress, she said people who are older and exercise more inspire her.

“There are some older people who can run laps about me,” Gooden said.

Besides warding off the effects of diabetes, Gooden said she has more energy and doesn’t get so sleepy.

On her walks, Gooden said she sees familiar faces and all levels of exercisers — people walking with dogs, sticks, canes and even walkers. She enjoys listening to country music with headphones while she walks, and she likes to go early in the day before it gets too hot.

Besides noticing people on the route, Gooden has caught glimpses of wildlife — even treasures.

“I’ve seen foxes by Dunlieth,” Gooden said. “And once I found a $10 bill on the ground.”

Gooden said because she knows so many folks who have a hard time getting around, but still find ways to exercise regularly, to her there are no excuses.

“There’s no such thing as ‘I can’t,’” Gooden said. “‘Can’t’ never did anything! If you want to do it — you will.”