For many, the less an activity feels like exercise, the more likely they will do it. I get that. I was always bewildered by people who naturally fit exercise into their day. You know, those active people. These are the same people who will recommend a hike before a picnic as opposed to my plan, which would be to simply picnic. I even understood the people who wanted to eat the picnic lunch on the way to the picnic.
But I digress. I think Delaware has an amazing resource for both audiences in the aforementioned picnic scenario. The trails at Delaware state parks are a phenomenal resource for both of these audiences—the active types and the types who want to exercise without feeling it.
The Delaware State Parks have come up with a great incentive for people to explore its trails with the longstanding Delaware Trail Challenge. This initiative encourages people to hike all 15 trails over the course of one year. The website includes trail maps, descriptions and most importantly, intensity levels. So the picnic-loving hikers can choose the easier trails and those active people can go hard-core with some of the tougher paths.
Walking along the state trails, especially this time of year, is a way to exercise with benefits that far surpass just getting fit. According to the American Hiking Society, the benefits of trail walking also include:
Decreasing Stress: A study reported in Prevention’s Practical Encyclopedia of Walking for Health tested 36 walkers for anxiety, tension and blood pressure levels before, during, and after 40 minutes of walking. There were immediate decreases in tension and anxiety levels as well as blood pressure after walking, regardless of walking pace.
Preventing Osteoporosis: Who knew you could reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis? Hiking and walking enables you to increase bone density and slow down the rate of calcium loss, the result is stronger bones.
And the best benefit?
Recognition from Delaware State Parks: According to Breanne Preisen, an interpretative specialist with the state, this recognition means a lot to people.
“We have repeat Challenge takers every year,” Presien says. “If you take the Challenge, you can get fit and receive different awards. If you complete five trails and earn the Explorer Award; 10 trails for the Advanced Hiker Award. If you complete all 15 trails, you get the Expert Hiker Award.”
Hey, if I can get a great workout without it feeling like one and then get an award for it, I will rise to that challenge any day. But seriously, there still has to be a picnic.
According to many popular health and fitness magazines, I am deficient in every possible vitamin. It’s as if all the vitamins are vying for the cover models. I often picture those big Sesame Street Muppet letters in some diva-like screaming match: “She’s deficient in ME! I am linked to autoimmune disease!” “No, she’s deficient in me! I can tell by looking at her!”
I am happy to announce that this blog entry is brought to you by the letter D—as in vitamin D.
So what is it about D that’s making all the headlines? It plays a dual role. What makes Vitamin D unique is that it’s both a vitamin and a hormone your body can make from the sun. Even though we can get vitamin D from food and the sun, it’s estimated 40 percent to 75 percent of people are deficient. Is there enough vitamin D in the foods you eat? If you live in certain parts of the country, it’s likely you are getting far less sun than others.
What are the implications? According to Shauna McIntosh, M.D. at St. Francis Hospital, “We now know that Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to trouble losing weight, an increased chance of catching a cold or the flu, depression or worsened premenstrual symptoms, and it seems to play a role in regulating insulin levels,” she says. “Also there is evidence that having normal levels of Vitamin D can be protective against certain cancers such as breast and prostate.”
Why so hot now? Research conducted in the past 10 years has linked vitamin D deficiency with a number of autoimmune diseases, warranting more media attention and health consumer education.
According to Dr. McIntosh, “There has been a lot of debate in the last few years around the topic of what constitutes a normal level of vitamin D in the blood and what is the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D that should be recommended to prevent one from becoming deficient.”
Ask your doctor about your Vitamin D levels. Taking vitamin D could end up improving your health and even better, making you feel trendier.
Have you ever been pre-diagnosed? You read that right, pre-diagnosed. In this new era of early detection and detailed blood work, patients are leaving appointments with new information about conditions that fall under this “pre” category such as precancerous cells, or pre-diabetes.
What should one do? Pre-worry? Pre-stress? Diagnoses can be confusing enough, but when you add a new category, patients can be easily overwhelmed about what to do next.
What does it mean to have precancerous lesions? These lesions, or areas of abnormal tissue, are not cancerous but have a risk of becoming cancerous over time. The term precancerous does not mean one will have cancer, it means the tissue has a higher likelihood of becoming cancerous if left untreated.
Physicians have grading systems of precancerous growths to determine how likely their course will change over time and recommend treatment based on that risk. For example, if someone has precancerous skin lesions, the treatment often coincides with the biopsy because the biopsy involves the removal of the entire growth. If additional treatment is needed, the options range from surgeries to laser, radiation and chemotherapies.
What does it mean to be told you are pre-diabetic? This diagnosis is given when a person’s blood work shows blood glucose levels that exceed the normal range, but do not yet qualify for a diagnosis for Type 2 diabetes. As with precancerous cells, it’s about risk and the likelihood of progressing into the disease.
According to Carl Colantuono, manager at the Delaware Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, “about 79 million Americans have been diagnosed as having pre-diabetes. It’s a condition to be taken seriously.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, “If your blood glucose levels are in the normal range, get checked every three years or more often if your doctor recommends it. If you have prediabetes, you should be checked for Type 2 diabetes every one or two years after you are told you have prediabetes.”
Unlike with precancerous cells, physicians recommend healthy lifestyle changes to treat this condition. Weight loss and daily exercise can help blood glucose levels return to a normal range, which no longer constitutes pre-diabetes.
These pre-diagnoses can be confusing for everyone. I like to think of it as a medical “heads-up.” Now if only I could be labeled a “pre-lottery winner.”
Inaugural Joshua Hardin Run for Life 5K
Location Hockessin Athletic Club, 100 Fitness Way, Hockessin
Time 9 a.m. (registration at 8 a.m.)
More Info. JoshuaHardinRunForLife@comcast.net
Find Your Way to Successful Weight Loss
Location Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitative Institute,
Room 100, 3506 Kennett Pike, Wilmington
Time 6-7:30 p.m.
More Info 661-3475, or (800) 693-2273
Bayhealth’s Steps to Aging Clinic: Health Holiday Eating
Location Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., Milford
Time 12:30-1:30 p.m.
More Info. 744-7135, or (877) 453-7107