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Mon, April 22

Regular physical activity benefits the whole body

Going to the gym or scheduling that all-important time to maintain physical health is not as indulgent or difficult as some may believe. If you haven't been good at getting regular physical activity or exercise, you have plenty of company. Only 27 percent of men and 22 percent of women reported vigorous leisure-time physical activity three or more times per week in a national health survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov).

Here is a short list of the cardiovascular health benefits of regular exercise:

• Heart and blood vessel

health

• Lowers resting heart

rate

• Strengthens heart

function

• Improves oxygen

delivery throughout

the body

• Lowers blood pressure

• Increases blood supply

to the muscles

• Helps lower blood

cholesterol and

triglyceride levels

• Raises level of HDL,

the "good" cholesterol

• Enlarges the arteries

that provide blood to

the heart muscle

Regular physical activity also produces stronger bones, ligaments and tendons, which can lessen the chance of injury or osteoporosis. Exercise increases muscle strength, range of motion, and improves stamina, posture and flexibility.

Regular physical activity also:

• Improves digestion and elimination processes

• Fosters good health by improving sleep and reducing tension and anxiety

• Improves mental outlook and self-esteem.

Risks of injury from exercise increase with obesity, the volume of exercise and competitive sport activities. Walking is the most popular moderate-intensity activity, perhaps because it is a low-risk activity.

According to the American Heart Association, a "gradual, sensible exercise program will have minimal health risks."

Some people should seek medical advice before starting to significantly increase physical activity. Consult a doctor if:

• You are middle-aged or older, haven't been physically active and plan a relatively vigorous exercise program;

• You have a medical condition such as insulin-dependent diabetes that may need special attention in an exercise program;

• You feel extremely breathless after mild exertion;

• You have developed chest pain within the past month;

• During or right after exercise, you often have pains or pressure in the left or mid-chest area, left side of the neck, shoulder or arm;

• Your doctor recommends only medically supervised physical activity.

Conditioning the heart and lungs requires brisk, sustained and regular activity such as aerobic dancing, rowing, stair climbing, stationary bicycling, hiking uphill or walking briskly. Some physical activities such as downhill skiing, handball, soccer, tennis, basketball can also help conditioning. Low-intensity activities such as bowling, social dancing or even gardening and housework can help lower risk of heart disease if done daily. For more information, visit www.americanheart.org or consult with your doctor.

Indoor walking program to get moving

If you like to go for walks early in the morning but shrug it off during the winter months, call your walking buddy and start your day at the Prescott Gateway Mall.

Visit the mall as early as 6 a.m. on any day, Monday through Saturday, and you will see dozens of residents getting in walking mode as part of their physical activity program. More than 200 residents have registered at the Guest Services Information Kiosk to join the Mall Walker's program. Mall Walkers get a courtesy log sheet and regularly take laps walking for fitness inside the mall.

People can log a half-mile each lap through the mall, which many locals like because it is an even surface that's free of ice or debris and the indoor temperature is between 68 and 74 degrees.

The mall opens the doors at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 8 a.m. on Sundays to support this activity before the merchants begin their day at 10 a.m. Wildflower Bakery, however, opens daily at 7 a.m.

To register, visit the Guest Services Information Kiosk during mall hours.

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