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  • Part 2: Becoming a Walkable Community Part 2: Becoming a Walkable Community Jean Crowther | 05/04/2016 Part 1 of this topic discussed the meaning of walkability and why it matters. However, even for communities where citizens and ...

    AdobeStock_82195281-450Part 1 of this topic discussed the meaning of walkability and why it matters. However, even for communities where citizens and elected officials rally behind the value of walkability and are ready to make improvements, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is a quick and easy guide to the first steps a community should consider:

    • Identify partners: Begin by bringing together the local partners who have a vested interest in creating a more walkable community, whether that is local government staff, an Eat Smart Move More chapter, an informal walking or running group, neighborhood associations, or senior citizens groups. This should also include potential partners in planning and funding, such as the regional Council of Governments, Metropolitan Planning Organization, SCDOT, and local foundations.
    • Create a comprehensive pedestrian master plan: The plan should include an assessment of pedestrian needs, recommendations for new or improved pedestrian infrastructure, policies, and programs, and action steps for seeking funding and implementing recommended projects. Once complete, the Plan should be adopted by the local council and the community should identify a municipal department or local advocacy group that will spearhead moving it forward.

    If a community already has a plan but is not sure how to prioritize its recommendations, or if a community does not have a plan, but does not quite have the capacity to develop one, here are some strategies for finding some catalyst projects that will build momentum for change:

    • Calm the traffic: There are a number of low-cost, easy-to-implement strategies that can have a big impact on the safety and practicality of walking, without requiring large capital projects. Look for opportunities to calm traffic on streets that are already known as walking routes but are not ideal in terms of pedestrian safety and comfort. Traffic calming can be an effective tool for prioritizing pedestrians over cars on neighborhoods streets.
    • Activate the street: Rather than calming the traffic on busier streets, consider ramping up the pedestrian amenities on lower-volume streets or streets already safe and comfortable for pedestrians. The focus is creating a space that is inviting, interesting, and fun for pedestrians whether through wayfinding signage, creating parklets, installing outdoor art, allowing outdoor café seating, or hosting temporary ‘open streets’ events to encourage play.
    • Close the gaps: The best way to leverage existing investments is to close the gaps in the existing walking network. The most obvious approach is to identify blocks where sidewalk is missing and could connect two existing sections. But closing the gap can also include: improving the crossing at an difficult intersection between to sections of sidewalks; signing a route to show pedestrians the best way to connect from one trail to another; or identifying bridges (whether creek crossings, overpasses, underpasses, or another form) where no safe pedestrian access is provide and prioritizing improvements to that gap.
    • Take the long view: Consider focusing on policy changes as a first step, knowing that it will take time to see its impact. Choosing to walk for transportation is inextricably linked to land use planning, which is governed by local policies. If residential areas are planned miles away from institutional and commercial destinations (such as schools, restaurants or grocery stores) or are developed without connections to the destinations that are nearby, citizens will never have a chance to choose walking. Local and County policies can directly impact this; and though it takes time, policy change can be one of the most efficient, and sustainable approaches to transforming a community.
  • Part 1: The Importance of Walkable Communities Part 1: The Importance of Walkable Communities Jean Crowther | 04/26/2016 What is walkability? The most basic definition is simply, “the ability to walk.” However, true walkability is so mu...

    AdobeStock_70252507-450What is walkability? The most basic definition is simply, “the ability to walk.” However, true walkability is so much more than that. It can affect everyday decisions and quality of life in ways you may not even realize.

    Last week my husband realized that he often opts not to walk to work because of time, but when considered in the larger context of his schedule, it is actually his most efficient commute choice. For him, walking requires a 25 minute walk at a relatively fast pace. When he drives, the total trip from our driveway to the office door, takes about 15 minutes (parking and traffic included, which many people forget to factor in their estimate of travel time). This means that on the days he walks to work, he spends 50 minutes on his roundtrip commute and gets 50 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity. Compared to a 30 minute round trip commute with zero physical activity, he has added 20 minutes to his trip but gained 50 minutes of exercise. That’s a pretty good deal!

    So if you consider exercise an important part of the week – and particularly if you have a hard time finding the time to exercise like we do – you can easily see the value of walkability, whether it applies to the trip to work, or choosing to walk to the bank, library, school, or park.

    But everyday decisions like my husband’s only exist in communities where walking is possible and practical. Communities with optimal walkability embody three main principles: physical access, places to go, and proximity to home.

    1. Physical access is the cornerstone of walkability. In a walkable community, people must have a safe means of traveling somewhere. This means that there must be a physical path marking the entire route where pedestrians are allowed. Without accessible sidewalks and trails, pedestrians are unable to safely walk anywhere.
    1. Physical access may provide a means of getting around, but in order for a community to be truly walkable, there must be an end to that means. Sidewalks with no points of destination aren’t very effective. Instead, trails, paths, and sidewalks should connect residents’ homes with their workplaces, schools, stores, transit stops, culture, and restaurants.
    1. Proximity to home is another key component of walkability. A general rule of thumb is that desirable destinations should be within a half mile of homes for a community to be considered walkable–that’s about a 10-minute walk.

    With each of these variables defined, it’s also important to ask why walkability is so important. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit all day. In fact, long periods of sitting have been linked to problems with our muscles, bones, and even brain function. In a culture where work often consumes our lives, it’s no surprise that one of the most common excuses for avoiding exercise is, “I don’t have time.” We wake up, get ready, drive to work, drive home, and then take care of our children. Where does exercise fit into our responsibilities?

    According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Driver Safety, American drivers spend an average of 46 minutes driving each day. Imagine living in a community where you are able to walk to work, school, and other activities. Instead of carving out extra time reserved for exercise, walkable communities allow us to incorporate physical activity into routine parts of our day that already exist. It’s no surprise that walkable communities have a lower incidence of obesity and diabetes.

    Consider the benefits of walkable communities. Do you think walking is important? Are you interested in making your community more accessible and focusing on walking as a priority? Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where we will share ideas for improving walkability in your community. And in the meantime, check the Health + Planning Toolkit developed by Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina and its partners, to learn how you can help facilitate healthy change where you live.

  • Opening School Grounds for Community Use Opening School Grounds for Community Use 04/11/2016 There are many reasons to be physically active. We may engage in physical activity to improve our health, to connect with frien...

    barnwell19signThere are many reasons to be physically active. We may engage in physical activity to improve our health, to connect with friends, to relieve stress or to have fun. In order to be active, South Carolinians need safe, affordable and convenient spaces and places to be active.

    Local schools have a variety of outdoor recreational facilities—playgrounds, fields, courts and tracks—where people can engage in physical activity. Being intentional about making schools’ outdoor recreational facilities available for communities to use is an effective, affordable way to promote and support physical activity among citizens. The South Carolina School Boards Association (SCSBA) and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is in full support of schools and school districts allowing the community free access to schools outdoor recreational facilities.

    SCSBA is encouraging all school districts to adopt the open community use model policy to provide free access to the schools’ outdoor recreational facilities. Dr. Tiffany Richardson, the Director of Policy and Legal Services at SCSBA explains, “In some communities, schools are often the only place to find safe and affordable recreation spaces.”

    This year, DHEC will be reaching out to schools, school districts and communities to encourage the adoption, implementation and promotion of open community use.

    DHEC and Eat Smart Move More South Carolina have developed an open community use playbook, Breaking Physical Activity Barriers Through Open Community Use. The playbook provides guidance to school administrators, teachers and community members interested in adopting and implementing the strategy to increase physical activity. To better understand the current status of open community use, DHEC assessed and published The Status of Open Community Use in South Carolina 2015.

    We hope to create communities where being physically active is not only easier but also safe and fun. In years to come, we hope to see more school districts embrace the SCSBA’s open community use model policy and more schools practicing and promoting open community use.

    You can find schools in your area that are open for community use at www.letsgosc.org! If your school isn’t listed, contact the principal to find out if open community use is allowed.

  • Food as Fuel - Before, During and After Workouts Food as Fuel - Before, During and After Workouts 03/23/2016 Your body is your vehicle, so you have to keep your engine — your heart — running when you work out. That means fu...

    AdobeStock_81181093_400Your body is your vehicle, so you have to keep your engine — your heart — running when you work out.

    That means fueling up your tank with the right foods and your radiator with the right fluids, using with right amounts at the right times. The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.”

    “You don’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule and there are no hard-fast rules,” said Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., a nutrition consultant for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “But there are some things you should do before, during and after you work out.”

    Here is what Ms. Platt recommends:

    Before: Fuel Up!

    Not fueling up before you work out is like “driving a car on empty,” said Platt, an American Heart Association volunteer. You also won’t have enough energy to maximize your workout and you limit your ability to burn calories.

    Ideally, fuel up two hours before you exercise by:Hydrating with water.

    • Hydrating with water.
    • Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast (without the fatty cream cheese), low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
    • Avoiding saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein — because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.

    If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana. “The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish,” Platt said.

    During: Make a Pit Stop

    Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water.

    Platt notes that you don’t need to eat during a workout that’s an hour or less. But, for longer, high intensity vigorous workouts, she recommends eating 50-100 calories every half hour of carbohydrates such as raisins, an energy bar or banana.

    After: Refuel Your Tank

    After your workout, Ms. Platt recommends refueling with:

    • Fluids. Drink water, of course. Blend your water with 100% juice such as orange juice which provides fluids, carbohydrates.
    • Carbohydrates. You burn a lot of carbohydrates — the main fuel for your muscles — when you exercise. In the 20-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery.
    • Protein. Eat things with protein to help repair and grow your muscles. It’s important to realize that these are general guidelines. We have different digestive systems and “a lot depends on what kind of workout you’re doing,” Platt said.

    So do what works best for you. Know that what you put in your body (nutrition) is as important as you what you do with your body (exercise). Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best.

  • Geocaching: Treasure hunting all over South Carolina Geocaching: Treasure hunting all over South Carolina Dr Greenhouse | 02/19/2016 I am a pediatrician. And I am addicted to geocaching. There, I’ve said it. So what is geocaching? Geocaching is treasure ...

    greenhouse400I am a pediatrician. And I am addicted to geocaching. There, I’ve said it.

    So what is geocaching? Geocaching is treasure hunting. Geocaching is spending a beautiful spring afternoon outdoors with your family. Geocaching is exploring areas right in your neighborhood or several hours away that you never knew existed. Geocaching is watching your children figure out how to cross the creek upstream and hike the trail back on the other side to find the treasure that the know is hiding there…somewhere.

    Have I got you interested yet? So what actually is geocaching? Geocaching is simply treasure hunting with a GPS-enabled device. There are thousands of geocaches registered at geocaching.com. The geocacher uses the coordinates to navigate to the correct location along with clues that help to pinpoint the location or describe the cache. A cache can be anything from a Tupperware container filled with trinkets for trade to a tiny film canister with a rolled up paper log to sign. There are geocaches in our state parks, in local parks and even in shopping center parking lots. You’ve probably walked past a geocache and not even realized it.

    Why is geocaching one of my favorite activities? Hunting for a geocache can be the focal point of a family hike on a beautiful day. My family has found geocaches in state parks all over our beautiful state and far beyond. Some are right off the trails and some require some serious effort to reach. When my children were very young, they would beg to go on a hike and hunt for a geocache. Even now, as college students, they will ask to look up geocaches and go exploring when we are on family trips.

    We have hidden travel bugs, small tags which are registered and attached to a tiny toy or stuffed animal and then passed from cache to cache by different geocachers. We get to follow the travel bugs’ adventures as it moves from town to town and state to state.

    What is my favorite geocaching experience? On a family ski trip to West Virginia, we went hunting for a geocache that seemed like it must be hidden under several feet of snow. It seemed like it would be absolutely impossible to find. Right before we were about to concede defeat and give up the very cold search, we noticed a metal drainage pipe not far from the coordinate location. Sure enough, there was a tiny microcache hidden inside the pipe. We signed the log and then headed to the ski lodge for some well-deserved hot chocolate.

    I have also hidden several caches in the Northeast Columbia area. As the “owner” of the cache, I am notified when a geocacher logs that they have found one of my caches. They can leave me a note describing their search and telling me what, if anything, they left behind. I love reading that a child found one of my caches with their parents and had a great time doing it.

    So are you ready to give geocaching a try? Check out geocaching.com. Find a geocache listing near you, head outdoors with a GPS device and explore a whole new world of treasure hunting. If you’re in Columbia, head to Sesquicentennial State Park and look for “Prescription for Parks” or any of the other caches hidden in this beautiful park. I can tell you that you’ll get some great exercise finding them. And you’ll leave the park wanting to find even more. Happy Geocaching, everyone!

  • What is Moderate and Vigorous Activity? What is Moderate and Vigorous Activity? 02/15/2016 American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week &nd...

    400American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week – or a combination of the two for adults.

    But what exactly do moderate and vigorous exercise mean and how do you know if you’re working out at the right intensity?

    There are a couple different ways to measure the level of intensity at which you are exercising and that level is based on your individual fitness level and overall health.

    The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

    As defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level. Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working. The RPE is based on the physical sensations you experience during physical activity, including:

    • increased heart rate,
    • increased respiration or breathing rate,
    • increased sweating, and
    • muscle fatigue.

    A high correlation exists between a person’s perceived exertion rating times 10 and the actual heart rate during physical activity; so a person’s exertion rating may provide a fairly good estimate of the actual heart rate during activity (Borg, 1998). For example, if a person’s rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is 12, then 12 x 10 = 120; so the heart rate should be approximately 120 beats per minute.

    Note that this calculation is only an approximation of heart rate, and the actual heart rate can vary quite a bit depending on age and physical condition. The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion is also the preferred method to assess intensity among those individuals who take medications that affect heart rate or pulse.


    During your workout, use the RPE Scale to assign numbers to how you feel. Self-monitoring how hard your body is working can help you adjust the intensity of the activity by speeding up or slowing down your movements.

    Through experience of monitoring how your body feels, it will become easier to know when to adjust your intensity.

    • Moderate-intensity physical activity is defined as – physical activity done on a scale relative to an individual’s personal capacity, moderate-intensity physical activity is usually 11-14 on a scale of 1 to 20.
    • Vigorous-intensity physical activity is defined as – physical activity done on a scale relative to an individual’s personal capacity, vigorous-intensity physical activity is usually 17-19 on a scale of 1 to 20.

    Examples of Moderate Intensity:

    • Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
    • Water aerobics
    • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
    • Tennis (doubles)
    • Ballroom dancing
    • General gardening

    Examples of Vigorous Intensity:

    • Race walking, jogging, or running
    • Swimming laps
    • Tennis (singles)
    • Aerobic dancing
    • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
    • Jumping rope
    • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
    • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

    Read more about moderate and vigorous activity on the American Heart Association’s website.

  • Trail Review: Harbison State Forest Trail Review: Harbison State Forest 02/10/2016 Harbison State Forest Trail: Firebreak Trail Length: 4.3 miles Level: Easy – Moderate Harbison State Forest is loca...

    The trail in Harbison State Forest

    Harbison State Forest

    Trail: Firebreak Trail

    Length: 4.3 miles

    Level: Easy – Moderate

    Harbison State Forest is located about 25 minutes northwest of downtown Columbia, and offers several hiking and mountain biking trails. (Use the map to find it!) The Firebreak Trail can be walked for a relaxing stroll through nature, or run for a good cardio workout! This easy-moderate trail starts right at the parking lot and brings you on a loop through the southern half of the park. It’s mostly flat, and features a gradual hill and a muddy dip in elevation around the half way point. I wouldn’t walk this trail in your favorite sneakers; the mud was hard to avoid in some places. At 2-2.5 miles in, there is a small stream that needs to be crossed with the help of some well-placed rocks. It took us about an hour to walk the whole trail at a moderate pace. It’s always smart to bring water and a friend to walk with when going into the woods, especially when trying a trail for the first time. The trail was marked well and the park wasn’t crowded, but we encountered other hikers or mountain bikers about every 15 minutes. This park is pet friendly, but dogs must be kept on leashes. I would definitely recommend this trail to a friend! 


  • How do you get your heart rate on target? How do you get your heart rate on target? 01/26/2016 When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you h...

    AdobeStock_97024202_500When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you hit the bull’s eye. “We don’t want people to over-exercise, and the other extreme is not getting enough exercise,” says Gerald Fletcher, M.D., a cardiologist and professor in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla.

    First Things First

    Before you learn how to calculate and monitor your target training heart rate, you have to know your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. You can check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.

    According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate:

    • for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 – 100 beats per minute
    • for well-trained athletes is 40 – 60 beats per minute.

    Hittin’ the Target

    Now you’re ready to determine your target training heart rate. As you exercise, periodically:

    • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
    • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
    • Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. You want to stay between 50 percent to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is your target heart rate.

    Know Your Numbers

    This table shows estimated target heart rates for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age.

    In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rate. Heart rate during moderately intense activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate, whereas heart rate during hard physical activity is about 70% to less than 90% of the maximum heart rate.

    The figures are averages, so use them as general guidelines.


    Important Note: A few high blood pressure medications lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. If you’re taking such medicine, call your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.

    So what’s in a number?

    If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining. So slow down. If it’s too low, and the intensity feels “light” or “moderate/brisk,” you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder.

    During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lower ranger of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up to the higher range (85 percent). After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

    “It’s not an absolute, but it’s a good tool to have,” says Fletcher, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. “And if you don’t know it, remember, if you’re not able to carry on a conversation (while exercising), that may be a bit too much.”

    If you have a heart condition or you’re in cardiac rehab, talk to a healthcare professional about what exercises you can engage in, what your target heart rate should be and whether you need to be monitored during physical activity. This will also help you to choose the types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals, because some activities are safer than others.

    Learn more at www.heart.org.

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