Almost 60 percent of Brooklyn adults are overweight, which is higher than the state average, Markowitz said.
“Studies show that Brooklynites exercise less and make less healthy food choices than the average resident of New York,” he said. “As a lifelong Brooklynite, I have to admit that I’ve added to this problem.”
His weaknesses are buttered bread and pasta, Markowitz said, but he tries to walk for 45 minutes around Prospect Park six days a week.
As the finale of the event, Markowitz led participants on a power walk through the streets of Brooklyn. They started at Borough Hall, turned right onto Court Street, took a left onto Montague Street and then walked down to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights.
The group took a short walk along the promenade before retracing their steps back to the plaza.
“Let today be the start of a new chapter in our lives,” Markowitz said before the power walk. “If you don’t exercise, start today.”
Information tents were set up around the plaza by the New York City Department of Health and the Parks Department, the latter of which had exercise equipment for people to test out. Boar’s Head Brand deli meats and Starbucks Coffee Company also had tents, where representatives handed out healthy snacks and drinks.
Leahy, the former Rockette, is also a registered dietitian, working on behalf of the Nutrition and Fitness Education Initiative Inc.
She visits schools in areas of Brooklyn such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick to educate students about nutrition. Then she leads the students in rehearsals for a musical, and at the end of the semester the kids perform it with Broadway actors. Leahy said she also worked with seniors last year on behalf of Emblem Health, a health care provider in New York state.
“Exercise can be done in many ways and should be continued throughout one’s entire life,” Leahy said.
Kids around the ages of eight, nine and 10 understand the elements of a balanced diet, which includes fruits and whole grains, and why they are important, Leahy said. Seniors need low-sodium diets with low saturated fat, she said.
As for the event, Leahy said she was impressed with the turnout and willingness to participate, despite the 95-degree heat and inescapable sunlight. While she was leading dances on the stage, those in the crowd to the top of the Borough Hall stairs followed along with the movements.
“The thing that is so amazing is that it is not a cool day, so I had to modify some of the things that I did on spot,” Leahy said. “But what was so cool is the fact that these people were so friendly, so willing to join in the activities.”