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Doctor's Desk

Walking is nature’s perfect , no cost, exercise

by: Photo by Joe McHaney - From left, Brandon Dubisar, of Madras, and Deidre Coen and Linda Newland, both of Bend, COCC team members, handed out gift certificates to cleanup volunteers.

Imagine the perfect exercise. It should be easy and enjoyable. It should not require any costly equipment or an expensive membership fee. It should be accessible to everyone, at any time, anywhere. Most of all, it should make us healthier with a minimum investment of time. To find this ideal exercise, you need look no farther than the ends of your legs!
   Walking is quite possibly nature's perfect exercise. It's free, other than the cost of a sturdy pair of running shoes. It can be done anywhere, at any time of day, in any season, by almost every person. It is one of the easiest forms of aerobic exercise, yet has measurable benefits for your health. Even better, it's a great way to enjoy some time with a friend or loved one while increasing your fitness.
   Madras is a great place for walking. We are privileged to have an increasing number of sidewalks and signaled crossings in town that have improved safety for pedestrians. We also have several wonderful walking and hiking trails in the area.
   The most recent addition to our local walking trail system is the Willow Creek Trail, which now extends from near the C Street trestle all the way to J Street, with a pedestrian and bicycle path that winds through town and out into the nearby farm land along beautiful Willow Creek. For a challenging loop, take the sidewalk east on J Street to the grizzly bears, cross Cityview and walk up the path past Yarrow and the pool to B Street, then walk down the newly-finished sidewalk all the way down B Street back to the Willow Creek Trail.
   For spectacular views of the Cascade mountain range, drive or walk up B Street to Juniper Hills Park and enjoy the scenery along the paved walking path that circles the park. There are loops of varying lengths that allow you to tailor your walk to the time (and energy) you have available. For a greater challenge and even better views, hike around the Frisbee golf course at the east end of the park on a wood chip path that winds up onto the hill with a spectacular viewpoint at the top.
   When the winter weather drives you indoors, take advantage of the "Walk the Halls" program put on by the Community Health Improvement Partnership and Madras High School early every weekday morning. Or bundle up, put on your hat and gloves, and get outside in the crisp winter air of Central Oregon.
   Walking is incredibly good for you. It has been thoroughly studied and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It reduces body weight, lowers blood sugar, and prevents obesity. It relieves stress and improves overall well being.
   To get started, put on supportive, well-cushioned shoes and go walk! Ten to 15 minutes per day has measurable benefits, but your eventual goal should be 30 minutes of brisk walking about five days per week. You'll know you're going the right speed when you are breathing a little harder than normal but can still carry on a conversation and you start to sweat a little from exertion. For heart rate counters, your goal should be about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age).
   Join the growing number of your friends and colleagues who are taking advantage of nature's perfect exercise. Find a friend, or go alone. Listen to music, or enjoy the quiet. Lace up those shoes and start walking!