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Get out and Start! walking, Pioneer Valley

By Courtney Llewellyn Reminder Assistant Editor SPRINGFIELD " I m working on a project. I ve decided, since I m a relative newcomer to the city and I spend most of my time in the towns I report for (East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham), that I m going to walk every street in my neighborhood. I live in the Liberty Heights neighborhood of Springfield, which means I have a total of 220 streets to meander down. As of press time (April 10), my miniature pinscher Kael and I have covered 76 of those streets. Why mention this? Because April 8 was National Start! Walking Day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The organization is asking everyone to walk just 30 minutes a day to improve their health. Start! is the AHA s national initiative that champions walking because it has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Start! is committed to getting people engaged in physical activity so they can live longer, stronger lives, Mary Ann Burns, Communications Director for the Pioneer Valley, stated in a press release. Over 66 percent of American adults are considered overweight and obese and nearly 70 percent are not engaging in regular, moderate or even light physical activity. It s imperative that people know how important 30 minutes of walking a day is to their cardiovascular health. Just a few extra steps a day is a simple and easy way to take an active role in maintaining a significantly healthier life. When I go for my big walks around the neighborhood with my small dog, we re normally out for at least an hour, and more often that not, for two. My health isn t the only thing benefitting from our walks, though. We ve met many friendly neighbors (and neighborhood dogs), we ve found restaurants and other businesses we normally wouldn t have noticed while driving by in a car and we ve found some unique, wonderful things " like the paw prints permanently pressed into the sidewalk across from Liberty School. The AHA notes that a person is 1.5 to 2.4 times more likely to have coronary heart disease if he or she is inactive, but walking vigorously for just 30 minutes a day can help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Adults should get at least two and a half hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Studies show that some adults may gain as many as two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular, vigorous physical activity. Plus, walking around Springfield allows you to get to know your city better. For more information about Start!, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit startwalkingnow.org. And, to follow the progress Kael and I are making, log on to eastspringfield.blogspot.com.

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