Monday Medical: Hit the trail for better health

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For more information about Nationals Trails Day events in Colorado or to search more than 30,000 trails online, visit www.americanhiking.org.

— It’s time to start enjoying spring in our beautiful Yampa Valley. What better way to do this than by walking or, better yet, by hiking. Although some of the high-mountain trails may not be completely dry, they soon will be.

In the meantime, enjoy our paved and dry packed trails in and around town. Slowly build up your fitness and endurance so that you’ll be ready to tackle the higher mountain trails in summer.

Hiking provides a long list of health benefits. It’s been shown to improve circulation, build stamina, increase your energy level and help you lose weight.

Even at a relaxed pace, hiking can help prevent osteoporosis and reduce your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cancer.

Hitting the trails also is good for your mental health. Trails provide the opportunity to breathe fresh air and escape from stress.

Northwest Colorado is filled with rivers, mountains, lakes and plains. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for people of all ages to get outside and enjoy our natural surroundings. From national and state parks to urban areas, Routt County has a lot of trails.

Here are just a few of the fun activities that will keep you physically active:

■ walking, jogging, running and hiking

■ rollerblading/in-line skating

■ wheelchair recreation

■ bicycling

■ cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

■ hunting

■ horseback riding

■ canoeing or kayaking

In 1987, the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors recommended that all Americans be able to go out their front doors and, within 15 minutes, be on trails that wind through their cities or towns and bring them back without retracing steps.

This recommendation led to the American Hiking Society’s launch of National Trails Day in 1993. Held annually on the first Saturday in June, the day recognizes the support and hard work of the volunteers, land agencies and outdoor-minded businesses that helped make it possible.

Trails do not just appear for our enjoyment; it takes many hours of planning, labor and negotiations to develop them.

National Trails Day 2011 is June 4 The theme for this year’s event is Made With All Natural Ingredients. The hope is to bring together outdoor enthusiasts to celebrate the trail systems throughout America.

Two-thousand events will take place across the country including trail maintenance, hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, running, trail celebrations and more.

The American Hiking Society encourages individuals to connect with outdoor clubs, businesses, community groups, parks and recreation departments as well as federal land managing agencies to experience, appreciate and celebrate the natural places where we can find a spread of scenery, peace and health.

So like the well-known T-shirt from Yosemite National Park states, “Take a Hike.”

Lisa A. Bankard is director of Wellness and Community Education at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at lisa.bankard@yvmc.org or 970-871-2500.

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