Get some exercise -- it's a walk in the park

And late spring or early summer is a great time to begin an outdoor exercise program.

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Late spring or early summer is a great time to get out and enjoy a walk, when the weather is nice. Gardening is great exercise, and as any gardener will tell you, there's no lack of work to be done. If that's not your forte, then you can take a stroll and enjoy looking at other people's gardens.

A walk around Pioneer Park might be just the way to enjoy a fine summer afternoon. Bennington Lake is another option for you. The area has plenty of parks and walkable neighborhoods.

Starting to get some exercise doesn't have to take hours on end and probably shouldn't, according to Dr. Michael Breland at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. "Even just walking 10 minutes can help lower your blood sugar," he said. And it can be fun. Exercise can become a family project -- walk together for fun and health-building. Dr. Breland suggested getting together with people who are also health-conscious. Encourage children and grandchildren to get up and get out for a short walk. Go with them, and you get some exercise, too.

According to Dr. Breland, little bits of exercise mean a lot; you don't have to run a marathon. Start walking down your driveway or past your house. If you get tired, come back. Take your little 10-minute walk several times a day, if you're up to it. But, Dr. Breland cautions to be sure you have comfortable shoes that aren't a strain for your feet.

"You definitely need a doctor's check-up and OK to do exercise," said Aileen Litchfield, Cardiac Rehab Nurse at Walla Walla General Hospital. "But once you're checked out, we encourage people to exercise. Have a goal of 20 minutes for their upper body and 20 minutes for the lower body. Add weights and then flexibility stretching exercises.

She agreed with Breland that starting gradually is important and added, "If they're not active people, start with three to five minutes. Check how tired they are. Even if you feel good, you don't want to end up hurting the next day and getting discouraged. Sometimes you can do it every other day, you can rest your muscles in between."

Even a gradual increase in exercise brings significant rewards. "Often they are surprised at how much they increase their stamina." Litchfield said weight-bearing resistance exercise is important. She suggested light weights, one or two pounds to start. "It actually pulls the muscle away from the bone and strengthens both. Research shows no matter the person's age they show improvement. But you must keep on with it, it's use it or lose it."

If you're walking, swinging your arms will add to your exercise. "Starting slowly is a good thing. Pay attention to how tired you are, if you can talk. If you're really tired, slow down and stop." If you're not tired at all, maybe you're not pushing yourself hard enough.

Remember to check with your doctor if you have any questions and concerns. Then get started and enjoy a walk outside.

Whether it's a simple walk near your home on a sunny day, a trip to the park or something more adventurous, it's a great way to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and get some exercise.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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