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April 18, 2011
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Walk your way to good health, Eagle County

The good folks at the Mayo Clinic are a curious lot, so they researched whether brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as jogging, which isn't nearly as dignified.

Turns out it does.

Walking is good for you.

The upside lasts a lifetime and it doesn't take all that much time out of your day. It's not like you have to be "Walkin' to New Orleans" (Fats Domino, who, if he'd actually done a little of that walking instead of just singing about it, might not have had that nickname).

We're talking about 30-60 minutes a day. For that, you get to lose weight, improve your overall fitness, make your heart and lungs more efficient and spy on the neighbors a little bit.

"It's safer, in general, easier on your joints and you can burn just as many calories," said Danita Chirichillo, fitness director at the Avon Recreation Center.

And the more you do, the more you can do, says Billy Kuhn, a fitness director and trainer with WECMRD.

"Getting your butt off the Barcalounger increases the resistance against your muscles by making them work harder," Kuhn said. "More muscle spikes you metabolism in a good way. You'll burn more calories in a day just by walking around."

"You should shoot to get at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular work every day. At the minimum," Chirichillo said.

It works like this, Kuhn said. "You get up and walk and you breathe heavily. As you walk more, the body uses oxygen more efficiently. Thus, you don't need as much oxygen so you don't breathe as hard. You're getting stronger."

It does require a certain amount of focus, resolve and some sturdy shoes because, "These Boots Were Made for Walking" (Nancy Sinatra).

"You'll want to make sure you have proper footwear for this," Chirichillo said.

Shoe shopping, yet another benefit of exercise.

Start off slowly. You can always work your way up to a power walk, Chirichillo says. And as you may have noticed, we have topography around here that you can use in the quest to be your best.

"You don't have to go faster. You can go steeper," Chirichillo said.

How far and how hard you go depends on your goals.

If the goal is weight loss, you're going to work 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If it's strength, you'll want to work up to 85 percent, alternating between high intensity work like sprinting, then something less so, Chirichillo said.

If it's increased heart health, WECMRD's Kuhn explains it this way: Your heart rate increases trying to get more oxygen to the muscles to make you go. Again, once your muscles learn to use oxygen more efficiently, your heart rate goes more slowly."

Walking makes your bones and muscles stronger, your tendons and ligaments stronger and more flexible, it improves your cardiovascular fitness and helps you look better.

So, why aren't you out there?

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 18, 2011 04:40PM Published Apr 18, 2011 04:33PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.