Side Trail

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Here's another sure sign of spring: Gyms are packed as everyone tries to get into shorts shape.

But getting into shape doesn't mean having to sweat it out at the gym.

Simply getting out and walking is one of the most effective and gentle means of getting back into shape. Humans are built for walking, dating back many years to when Homo sapiens first started trekking about on two legs. It's easier on the joints than running and is an activity people of all ages can enjoy.

If you've been a couch spud for a long time, but you're determined to get in shape, first check in with your doctor. Then invest in a good pair of walking shoes or hiking sandals. Since your feet will be carrying the weight as you amble around, make sure to protect them.

When you start, take your time. There's no need to race walk. Try walking around the block. Make walking a part of your daily routine. Park your car at the farthest spot from the grocery store or department store doors so that you walk a little farther. Take time to walk somewhere for your lunch or dinner. If you have a desk job, as many of us do, take 20 minutes of your lunch hour to go walk around.

Walking for even 30 minutes a day has a multitude of benefits, according to numerous studies and the American Heart Association. Walking can:

• Reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

• Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

• Help lower the risk of obesity.

• Reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

• Enhance your mental well-being.

• Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer.

• Reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

If you need a little inspiration, check out thewalkingsite.com, which is chock-full of nutrition tips, a training program for walking a marathon, cross training and connecting with a community of like-minded ambulators.

Aside from walking your way to health, here's an upcoming class that can teach you about natural medicines. Debra Sherry, a homeopathic and nutrition specialist, will offer a free homeopathy class May 3, 5:30 p.m. at the boardroom at Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, 118 Cruz Alta Road.

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine system developed in Germany more than 200 years ago, according to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Though its effectiveness remains controversial, many people swear by the system, which uses tiny amounts of natural substances to help boost the body's innate healing and immune processes. Homeopathic remedies are regulated for purity by the Food and Drug Administration, but the federal agency makes no claim as to the effectiveness of the substances.

Check out the class if you are curious.

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