Walk It Off
Numerous pretty parks and trails make it easy to increase your physical activity
Excuse me, but have you been putting on a little weight lately? I'm only saying this for your own good. You could stand to lose a pound or two -- or 20. I love you, honey. I just want you to be healthy.
Sound familiar? That's because more than half of U.S. adults -- 59.2 percent -- are obese or overweight, based on body-mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
Pennsylvania is slightly over average: 59.5 percent of adults here are obese or overweight, according to the latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control. Bad enough, but that's up 10 percent since 1995.
And at one Allentown school, obese and overweight students increased by one third over the city-wide average seven years ago.
"Obviously, we have a real problem here," says Barbara Stader, director of the Allentown Health Bureau.
We have a solution, and it's a step beyond the sensible advice to eat less and exercise more. Millions of steps more, in fact.
"Walking is probably the easiest, cheapest way to increase physical activity," says Aaron Katz, a family practice physician at West End Medical Group, Cetronia. A few years ago, Katz, a longtime proponent of walking, helped develop the Wildlands Conservancy's Walk For Wellness program, a series of walks throughout the region that were offered to Morning Call readers as the Walk This Way walking series.
During his residency project, Katz says he saw "a significant increase in the number of persons doing some physical activity, just by asking if they were doing it and suggesting they should. We hoped we would see an additional increase if physicians gave patients maps of walking trails near their homes," he recalls.
Katz still touts the benefits of walking. In addition to burning calories, walking increases aerobic activity, blood flow and metabolism. This can help improve the mental health and mood of the individual, says the doctor, which may cut back on the overeating people often do as a way of dealing with stress.
Started back on June 29 and every Tuesday for the next 15 weeks, the Morning Call will publish maps and directions to one of the most scenic, enjoyable walks in the Lehigh Valley region.
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