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Should you exercise? The eyes have it

We all know that exercise is good for your heart, your brain and all of your muscles and joints, right?

Ho-hum. Old news.

But did you know that staying active can help save your eyesight? Yes. According to research done at the University of Wisconsin, regular physical activity, a vigorous 30-minute daily walk would qualify, can lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration by as much as 70 percent. Exercise, experts believe, may reduce the inflammation and blood vessel irregularities that are linked to the disease.

So take special note, Boomers: There IS something you can do to help prevent macular degeneration from happening to you. Protect your eyes from overexposure to the sun, get physical and love being active for as long as you possibly can.

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Spring training 101: How to boost speed and strength

Hill training and running intervals are two terrific ways to spring train your way to a faster, fitter body. Do them -- starting today -- and you will significantly increase your aerobic capacity, which means you can play harder tennis, better basketball and do longer runs with less fatigue and greater strength.

Hill training: First, do a warm-up routine to get your muscles and joints juiced and ready for a run. Then find an incline. Hope for a hill, but settle for steps. Or use a treadmill set at an incline of 5 percent or higher.

Run uphill as hard (and far) as you can in three minutes. Keep breathing! After three minutes, return to your starting point and sprint up again to the same point, pushing yourself to the edge of breathlessness. Then repeat.

(On a perceived-effort scale of 1-to-10, pushing yourself to a nine will bring great improvement. Less effort will bring slower results, but so what? It’s still a great thing to do!)

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Start out doing just two hill training reps, twice a week and build gradually until you can do five reps without dying. The not-dying part is always important when you are building aerobic capacity.

Running intervals: There are many ways to run intervals, but in this scheme you run as fast as you can (ideally on a track) for six minutes. Measure your distance covered. Then divide this distance by six to obtain your interval length: how far you can run in one hard minute.

(For example, if you run 1,500 meters in 6 minutes, your interval distance --1,500 divided by six -- is 250 meters.)

Run your first interval distance, going all out for one minute. Then relax, jog for a minute, and run your second interval. Keep doing it until you have run seven intervals (sprints). Do this every 10 days -- proper rest is a crucial part of smart training! - and gradually increase the number of intervals to 15 per session.

(These two drills, with my embellishments, come from workouts recommended by world-class exercise scientist Heikki Rusko in a recent issue of National Geographic’s Adventure magazine, one of my faves.)

Eat this up. Time to shop green and eat local

Farmers’ markets are sprouting up all over the place this time of year. Go find one and have your best time, choosing fruits and vegetables that are raised locally and grown organically.

Even if it costs a little more, it’s worth it. You’ll know why the minute you taste a real tomato. Locally grown food is fresher, more nutritious and the green-conscious farmers need and deserve your kind support.

If you’re not sure how to tap into the Green Market movement in your area, here are two online resources: www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets will direct you to a local farmers’ market and www.localharvest.org is an excellent resource for finding both farmers’ markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can buy tasty, nutritious food direct from small growers. It’s a juicy site with a terrific slogan: “Real food. Real farmers. Real community.” Amen.

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Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.


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