Put Some Spring In Your Step!

by Gina McLean (published March 2012)

Thank goodness spring temperatures are finally here! If you are anything like me, cold weather always provides the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book, some tasty treats and abandon the great outdoors. In fact, I even went so far as to purchase one of those Amish electric fireplaces last year so I could languish even longer in the glow of its psychedelic flames on the chilliest of weekends. (Much to my 16 year-old son’s dismay, who frequently reminded me in a very condescending tone, “Mom, you know it’s not a REAL fire, right?”) I would quietly ignore his snide remarks, dive deeper into a great work of fiction and occasionally gaze out the window curiously at the die-hard exercisers as they jogged, walked and cycled past my toasty little refuge.

But now, the glorious, warm evenings of daylight savings time are upon us. And so, I suppose I have no more excuses but to get out there and walk my little heart back to its optimum state of health. I say this somewhat in jest, but truthfully, it is no laughing matter. Today, heart disease is the number one killer of women. In fact, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more women than the next five causes of death combined. So, as a frequently frazzled, fortyish, frenetic mother of two, I cannot ignore the abundance of advice aimed at getting me off the couch and out the door.

According to the American Heart Association, moderate intensity aerobic exercise for as little as 30 minutes five days per week can help:

- Reduce the risk of disease

- Improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood lipid profiles, and overall heart health

- Maintain body weight and reduce the risk of obesity

- Enhance mental well-being (Enough said. I better get walking.)

And the good news is, here in St. Augustine, there are endless safe and picturesque walking opportunities. Perhaps one of the most frequented is the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge, connecting our precious oldest city to Vilano Beach. Offering a beautiful view, a challenging incline and a walled walking lane, this is a great place to get your heart pumping. One trip across and back and you’ve definitely met the AHA recommendations, while also enjoying one of the most amazing views in our area. Although it is significantly shorter, the Bridge of Lions also offers a nice walking lane - and when combined with a brisk trek through the grounds of the Castillo de San Marcos, including its hills and stairways, you can easily achieve that recommended 30 minutes of exercise.

Finally, my personal favorite is a walk through Anastasia State Park. The park offers 4 miles of pristine beaches and several miles of roads that coexist with a wide array of birds, marsh and marine life. Nothing feels better on a warm, sunny day than to kick my shoes off and walk along the coastline to the music of crashing waves. And so that settles it. It’s time to shed those winter layers, slip on some kicks and do something good for your heart. I’ll see you there!