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  • 9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day 9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day 04/05/2018 There are countless ways to reach a daily step goal. Find the tricks that work for you and keep you motivated to move and you’l...

    By now you’ve probably heard the latest research. Sitting is even worse for our health (and fitness) than we thought. And even if you do exercise regularly, you still face health risks if you are sedentary for the rest of your day (you know, the other 23 hours you’re not working out in the gym). On top of these facts, some researchers argue that when it comes to weight loss or weight management, it’s not even necessarily the people who “exercise” the most who come out on top: it’s the people who are simply more “active” (think on their feet) that tend to be the leanest.

    The truth is: If you’re not moving, you’re losing out on major health and weight-management boosters. No matter what your fitness level, setting a goal to move more can be a motivating way to improve your health. But just how do you accumulate 10,000 steps (roughly 5 miles) in a day?

    We’ve all heard the advice to park further away, walk to the furthest restroom in the office, or to take the stairs whenever possible. And these small bits DO add up. But if you’re looking for some realistic ways to make a big difference, I’ve got you covered. Here are some ways of breaking up that lofty goal throughout the day into manageable chunks that will get you up and active for a healthier body.

    Smart Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day

    Try This Trifecta. Consider breaking your step goal into three smaller goals throughout the day: a morning walk, a midday walk, and an evening walk. Make one a 3-mile power walking workout (in whichever slot you have the most time), and then squeeze in a 20-minute walk (roughly 1 mile) at lunch and after dinner.

    Every Hour on the Hour. If you were to split up these steps during a normal workday (8-9 hours), that works out to just over 1,000 steps per hour. That means about a half mile walk (less than 10 minutes of time), spread out across the day. It won’t be realistic for everyone to do this at work, but it may be realistic for some people to take a few 10-minute breaks during the workday—then squeeze the remaining 10-minute walks in before or after work. If you split up your steps throughout your regular waking (instead of just working) hours, that makes it even easier. Set a timer on your phone or computer and walk just 5 minutes every hour of the day until bedtime. DONE!

    Power Hour. Challenge yourself each day to accumulate as many steps as possible during one hour of the day. This can be part of your daily workout (wear your tracker while you ride the exercise bike, use the treadmill or run). Continue working harder over time so that you can cover more ground in the same amount of time!

    6 Legs in One. The easiest way for me to accumulate steps in a given day is to walk my dog. She’s the best fitness partner around! We have a daily routine of walking in the morning and the evening—yes, on top of exercising or, some days, as my exercise for the day. Splitting up your walks into roughly two 2.5-mile sets is good for both of you. This is also a healthy routine that the whole family can enjoy together! No dog? Volunteer at your local shelter.

    Wear an Activity Tracker. I am a huge advocate for wearable fitness devices (like the Spark Activity Tracker) that track your steps and overall activity each day. This small reminder will encourage you to get up more, take longer route, use the stairs—and then some. As someone who was already exercising (even running!) regularly, I was shocked to find out after wearing my own tracker that I didn’t come anywhere near 10,000 steps per day—not even on the days I worked out! Now I wear one every day. And it makes me want to get on my feet in every little way that I can to hit that daily goal. It’s an amazing motivator! (Learn more about the Spark and see what a good little walker Ginger is in the video below!)

    Buddy Up. Since I broke my foot last summer, I’ve been really limited in the types of exercise I can do while it continues to heal. Still unable to run, what I can do is walk. Walking alone became really boring for me after so many months, so I started calling up friends to walk with me. I know this is the advice you hear all the time—that exercising with a buddy is more fun and will keep you accountable. And now that I’ve done it, it holds so true. My friends and I walk together as social time (beats sitting over coffee or wine for an hour or more) to chat and catch up. And when we are walking, we don’t even notice the time or the distance—we just go and go. I get more steps and accumulate more distance with friends than I ever would on my own.

    Be Inefficient. We are all so busy that it makes sense to multitask, combining several errands in a single trip, ordering takeout from the computer we’re already sitting in front of, or carrying that armload of clothes + toys + shoes + toilet paper upstairs in a single trip. While technology has made a lot of things easier on us, what if you deliberately tried to be inefficient—any time it involved being on your feet. On days that I know I’ve been less active, I choose to be inefficient as a way to get more activity in while getting my daily chores or work done. For example, I’ll carry the laundry downstairs in three smaller trips instead of one oversized basket, or pick up and put away one item in the house at a time instead of filling my arms in an efficient way. Although it can be difficult to justify taking more time to do basic things when you’re busy, I justify it to myself by thinking of it as multitasking: I’m getting activity in at the same time as my chores.

    Be Efficient. On the flipside, are there ways you could multitask in order to get more steps in? By this I mean looking at the commonly sedentary tasks you do each day (making phone calls, sitting near your kids while they play, watching TV, reading, etc.) and deciding if there’s a way you can add walking (or other movement) to that activity. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a treadmill desk at work, but I also try to get up and walk around as often as possible when I’m talking on the phone, for example. And here at SparkPeople, when we have small one-on-one discussions with co-workers or brainstorming meetings, we’ll often head outside and walk while we talk if there’s no need to be in a formal conference room. Perhaps you, too, can watch TV while you exercise, read (or listen to) that book on the stationary bike, or get moving with your kids when they’re playing.

    Step It Up Inside. Indoor walking workout DVDs are extremely popular and allow you to get moving no matter what the weather. Some titles are specific walking distances like 3 to 5 miles. We love Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away the Pounds series as well as newcomer (and SparkPeople contributor) Jessica Smith’s motivating walking DVDs.

    As you can see, there are countless ways to reach a daily step goal. Find the tricks that work for you and keep you motivated to move and you’ll hit that daily number in no time!

  • The Importance of Moving More The Importance of Moving More 02/13/2018 Use our Move More blog to stay updated on physical activity tips and trends. You'll find helpful information that you can use t...

    We know that an active lifestyle makes us feel better and sleep better. It’s also a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Being outside and getting our Vitamin D just feels good! Physical activity is important for everyone regardless of age, race, income, and culture. Experts recommend 150 minutes of physical activity a week for adults and 60 minutes a day for youth.

    Regular physical activity can:

    • Prevent chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, and stroke)
    • Control weight
    • Build strong muscles
    • Reduce fat
    • Promote strong bone and joint development
    • Improve conditions of heart and lungs
    • Build overall strength and endurance
    • Improve sleep
    • Decrease potential of becoming depressed
    • Increase your energy and self-esteem
    • Relieve stress
    • Increase chances of living longer

    Although it may, at times, seem difficult to find ways to be active, there are many safe and affordable options available in our own communities. You can find state parks that have trails for hiking; places to fish and kayak; community trails for biking and walking; and community parks and playgrounds. Some schools even open their outdoor facilities in the afternoon and on weekends for individuals and families.

    Use our Move More blog to stay updated on physical activity tips and trends. You'll find helpful information that you can use to make simple changes to your daily routine.

  • Be Sweet to Your Feet Be Sweet to Your Feet The American Heart Association | 01/17/2018 Healthy feet are happy feet, and they’ll keep you moving toward your activity goals!

    Be Sweet to Your FeetFrom blisters to heel pain, foot and lower body conditions can keep you from being active. Learn more about common causes and solutions for foot and lower body issues. Finding more comfort and ease may be just what you need to get moving.


    Finding Comfort and Pain Relief To Help You Move More

    Be sweet to your feet. They support you and keep you moving whether you're on the job, having fun or rocking your favorite activity. Most Americans will log about 75,000 miles on their feet by age 50. About half of us experience pain or other foot problems at least some of the time. Our feet deserve a little TLC, so start with the basics:

    • Know your feet. Check them daily, after you’ve been active or when you get home from work or school. Spot problems early and keep them from getting worse. Look for blisters, cuts, sores, swelling, and areas that are red, warm, tender, or rough. Check between your toes, too.
    • Keep it clean. Wash your feet with soap and water every day, and dry them thoroughly. You can use powder or cornstarch between your toes if needed. Apply lotion to dry or rough spots like heels. Protect blisters and open sores with a fresh bandage. Trim toenails weekly -- straight across and not too short. Gently remove calluses and corns with a pumice stone or foot file. Wear clean socks, especially when you exercise or if you already have a foot problem.
    • Handle your issues. Most adults have experienced some type of foot issue. In one 2012 survey, the most frequently reported ailments included ankle sprain, blisters, calluses, cracked skin, foot fatigue, and fungal infection (athlete’s foot). Other common conditions include arch pain, bunions, corns, heel pain, ingrown toenails, other nail issues, plantar fasciitis, plantar warts, shin splints, swelling, and yes, even smelly feet! Ignoring a foot problem won’t make it go away, so if it doesn’t start to clear up after a few days, see a doctor. Some conditions and injuries can be serious and should be diagnosed and treated by a health professional.

    An Ounce of Prevention

    When you have discomfort or pain in your feet or lower body, you won’t have much motivation to get off the couch and get active. Happily, there are many ways to up your comfort factor and prevent some common sources of pain when exercising.

    • Take a stand: Alternate periods of sitting, standing, and moving throughout the day. If you’re on your feet a lot, put them up when you sit down to take a break. If you’re more sedentary, try a standing desk or walking breaks. Experts suggest standing or walking for at least two hours per eight-hour workday, or about 15 minutes out of every hour.
    • Lighten up: Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can put extra stress on your feet, knees, and body.
    • No fungus among us: Wear flip flops or water shoes in public showers, locker rooms, restrooms, pools, and other wet areas.
    • Cross train: Vary your activities to avoid repetitive impact. Walk, bike, swim, run, dance, skate – with so many fun ways to move your body, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one.
    • Before and after: Warm up before working out, and cool down and stretch afterward. Make sure your routine includes stretching and strengthening exercises for feet, ankles, calves, and knees.
    • Insert here: Try orthotics or shoe inserts for additional support, pain relief, and comfort. They can help with some common issues like foot discomfort, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis and knee pain. Over-the-counter shoe inserts can include arch supports, insoles, heel liners or cups, and cushioning pads.

    If the Shoe Fits…

    The right shoes can make being active a breeze, while the wrong shoes can wreak havoc on your feet. Here are some of the key considerations when buying shoes:

    • Get comfy: As much as possible, wear supportive, comfortable shoes that fit well. Save those killer heels for special occasions!
    • Get specific: If you participate in a certain sport or activity at least twice a week, get shoes designed for that activity and terrain or surface.
    • Get fitted: Have both feet measured each time you buy shoes, and size to the larger foot. Shop at the end of the day, when your foot tends to be the biggest. Try on shoes with your usual socks and insoles or orthotics. Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight, thinking they’ll stretch.

    What’s That Smell?

    Nobody likes to talk about it, but let’s face it, foot odor happens. When your feet sweat, the moisture creates an environment for bacteria to grow. To help keep feet fresh so you can move more with confidence:

    • Choose shoes and insoles that are well-ventilated and cooling. Avoid synthetic materials that don’t let your feet breathe.
    • Wear clean, acrylic-blend athletic socks that wick moisture away from feet. Natural fibers can absorb and trap sweat, so they may not be the best choice for your workout.
    • Don’t wear the same shoes every day, and don’t leave them stuffed in a workout bag or buried under sweaty clothes. Allow them to dry out thoroughly between each wearing.
    • Practice good daily hygiene and nail care.
    • Don’t wait to take care of foot problems.

    Healthy feet are happy feet, and they’ll keep you moving toward your activity goals!


  • Become A State Park Ultimate Outsider! Become A State Park Ultimate Outsider! Deanna Anderson | 01/15/2018 Did you know that South Carolina has forty-seven state parks and that if you visit them all you can be an Ultimate Outsider?

    Ultimate-OutsiderDid you know that South Carolina has forty-seven state parks and that if you visit them all you can get a free T-shirt and bragging rights as an Ultimate Outsider?

    Participation in the program is simple. Visit any state park office or their website at www.southcarolinaparks.com and purchase the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks for $2.00 (shipping & handling fees apply when ordering through the website).

    Not only does the guide provide information on each park, its amenities, and popular activities but it also has space on each page to stamp every time you visit a start park. Head to the park’s office or designated kiosk and get that park’s page stamped. When all forty-seven have been obtained ask a park ranger to verify by signing the form included in the book, and then mail it in.

    In addition to bragging rights and the awesome T-shirt, visiting our state parks is also beneficial to our mind, body and spirit, because spending time and exercising outdoors, has proven benefits that we don’t always get indoors.

    Studies show that spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine increases metabolism, self-esteem, and vitality while decreasing fatigue, tension, and depression. Sunshine also provides us with essential Vitamin D, which increases bone health and cell growth and boosts immune systems.

    The numerous trail systems in South Carolina’s parks provides opportunities for running, walking, hiking, jogging, and mountain biking with the added challenges of wind resistance, rugged terrain, and variations of inclines. Visit coastal parks or ones with waterways for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and SUP’s (stand-up paddleboards) and face the challenges of wind and currents.

    If unfamiliar or inexperienced with these outdoor activities, many events are held throughout the year in the parks and provide visitors a chance to learn or train in a new skill or participate in a healthy competition. Among some of these events are guided kayak and canoe tours, guided hikes including 1st Day Hikes (Jan 1) or National Trails Day (first weekend in June), and mountain bike races sponsored by Midlands SORBA.

    So, the next time you are planning a day or weekend trip stop by the nearest park office and pick up the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks then pick a favorite or a new physical activity. As your exercise your way across the state you will have adopted a healthier lifestyle, seen a lot of amazing natural and historical sights, and achieved the noble title of Ultimate Outsider!

  • Must-See Passages of the Palmetto Trail Must-See Passages of the Palmetto Trail Deanna Anderson | 04/18/2017 South Carolina is lucky to have the Palmetto Trail; a cross-state trail extending roughly 350 miles from Oconee County to Charl...

    Hiking is good for the body, mind, and soul and South Carolina is lucky to have the Palmetto Trail; a cross-state trail extending roughly 350 miles from Oconee County to Charleston County.  The pet project of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF), it is also the only trail I know of with its own beer, the Palmetto Trail Ale.

    It can be hiked as a thru-hike or day- and section-hikes between the numerous trailheads.  With 26 passages ranging from 1.3 to 47 miles, there is a lot to enjoy along the Palmetto Trail, but these are my “must-see” hikes.

    Peach Country Passage:  14.1 miles
    In the upstate, this trail leads hikers along rural roads, where they will enjoy peach orchards in full bloom in the springtime. The trail also overlaps urban sidewalks past a local high school, and a small country store in Gramling on US Hwy 176 is a nice stop for refreshments.   The uniqueness of this passage comes from Windmill Hill, which at 1184 feet above sea level is the highest point of the Palmetto Trail.

    Capital City Passage:  7.5 miles
    Hike this passage on any Saturday of the year.  Why?  Because then you’ll end up on Main St., Columbia and the Soda City Market.  Soda City Market is held every Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm, rain or shine, and is a mixed venue of artists, musicians, and food vendors with a conglomeration of cultures and styles.  The free samples handed out by vendors are tasty treats to weary hikers.  This passage also takes hikers through the beautiful and historical USC campus and the SC State House.  It is tradition to walk up the steps of the capital building and take a group photo or selfie.  A quick detour on King St. brings hikers to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation office and its always smiling and friendly staff.

    High Hills of Santee: 9 miles
    Based in Sumter County, this passages winds through Poinsett State Park and overlaps pre-existing trails.  Dubbed the “mountains of the Midlands,” this passage is in an area known as the Sandhills of Santee.  This region existed as the ocean’s shoreline millions of years ago.  The local limestone, known as coquina, is made of compressed shells, and the stone is utilized throughout the park in the ranger station, picnic shelters, and trail shelters.  Hikers can take a dip in Old Levi Mill’s Pond, buy refreshments and souvenirs at the Ranger Station, or stay in the campgrounds.  Diversity, such as Spanish Moss existing alongside of Mountain Laurel, has given this park the nickname “the mountains of the midlands.”  The park also offers another twenty miles of a stacked-trail system, allowing hikers to walk as much or a little as they like.

    Swamp Fox Passage: 42.2 miles
    At almost 50 miles, this is the longest passage of the Palmetto Trail, but three different trailheads allow it to be hiked in sections.  It travels through four distinct ecosystems in Frances Marion National Forest: swamps, grassy savannahs, pine forests, and cypress trees.  The swamps are the famous as the hiding places of the Revolutionary War hero Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, and the forest is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.  This remoteness and primitiveness of this passage should not be tackled by inexperienced hikers or without planning and preparation.

    Awendaw Passage: 7.2 miles
    A terminus of the Palmetto Trail, this passage ends or starts at the Intracoastal waterways at Buck Hall Recreation Center and will travels through a maritime forest, palmetto trees, past a canoe launch (a perfect place to stop for lunch), and a salt marsh. Often tiny blue crabs can be seen along the trail in the salt marsh.  Buck Hall Recreation Center is a scenic spot to either begin or end your hike in proximity to the picnic shelters, bathrooms, and camping amenities.  A one-mile marker with the Palmetto Trail name and logo deserves a mini-celebration or at least a selfie, as it signifies either you have only one mile left of the Palmetto Trail, or you’ve trekked the beginning mile and have only 349 more miles to go!

    For more information or maps on these and other passages of the Palmetto Trail, visit the Palmetto Conservation website at www.palmettoconservation.org.  They also offer events and guided hikes along the trail.  Never set out on a trail without researching it, packing the right equipment and maps, telling someone where you are going, and familiarizing yourself with the area.

  • Hikers, It's Time to Challenge Yourself! Hikers, It's Time to Challenge Yourself! Deanna Anderson | 11/03/2016 It's time to get moving with a new outdoor challenge- hiking!

    hikers-challengeNews and social media is filled with advice on how to walk more, when and where to walk, and why we should walk.  So, we’re doing it.  We’re hitting the fitness tracks, taking to the trails, or walking in social groups.  We’re walking more than ever, so now its time to challenge ourselves!

    365 Miles in 365 Days
    Sound impossible?  Don’t let the large numbers scare you; this amounts to only 1 mile a day.  Studies show that we typically walk 3-5 miles a day cumulatively with trips to the bathroom, to the car, in the store, at home or at work.  Adding one meaningful powerwalk will be easy.

    It’s difficult to determine when and where this challenge began. It appears to have originally started as a running challenge, but walking or hiking could be substituted.  There is no website for the challenge, just various blogs and Facebook pages, so there is no sign-up or official way to keep track of miles.

    For beginners try 1 mile per day.  For more of a challenge, go for a timed distance and complete all the miles in the least amount of time possible.  The challenge ends 365 days from when you start, or after 365 miles—whichever comes first.  Create your own blog or Facebook page to show off your success!

    52 Hiking Challenge
    The program started in 2014 when one woman challenged herself to hike once a week for a year.  Now it is a global movement meant to “inspire and encourage individuals to step outside their comfort zone,” according to their website.

    Even though it was initially designed as one hike per week, the challenge is flexible and challengers can walk neighborhoods or urban parks.  The only rules are to hike or walk at least a mile and count only one hike per day.  Some challengers have even completed 52 hikes in less than 52 weeks by hiking multiple times a week.

    Sign-up can be done anytime, with the challenge ending 52 weeks from when you start.  This is a free challenge but cool swag bearing the logo can be purchased online.  Visit www.52hikechallenge.com or the 52 Hike Challenge Facebook page to register.

    1000 Mile Challenge
    Is 365 miles in a year not enough for you?  Then try the 1000 mile challenge.  This is another challenge initially geared towards runners, but hikers and walkers are also encouraged to compete as well.  You can start this challenge anytime and sign-up is free.  However, Premium Members get offers for cool swag and a medal for completing the challenge.  The website allows you to keep track of your miles and there is a Facebook page where you can connect with other challengers.  Visit www.1000milechallenge.com for more details.

    Hike Like A Woman
    For our female hikers out there, the blog hikelikeawoman.net offers a challenge every May, lasting only a few weeks.  It is not so much about getting out and hiking but it involves things to do along the trail.  Past challenges have included hiking with a friend, picking up litter, hiking in a new area, and hiking to the highest elevation in your area.  Challengers post pictures of them doing the themed challenge of the week and one winner is chosen every week and given free swag. Hike Like A Woman is also on Facebook.

    Palmetto Challenge
    This challenge is hosted annually by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) for seven weeks in the spring (usually March to April).  Challengers log in their steps or miles each week and at the end of the seven weeks attend a cook-out where prizes are given to the top teams.

    The PCF is an organization that promotes outdoor recreation and one of its main projects is the Palmetto Trail, a 400-plus mile cross-state trail.  However, this challenge does not have to be hiked along the trail but can be miles logged anywhere.  PCF membership is also not required, but encouraged.  This challenge is free but membership fees do apply depending on levels.  Visit www.palmettoconservation.org for details.

    SC State Parks Ultimate Outsider
    Hike your way to becoming an Ultimate Outsider.  This program is not necessarily a walking or hiking challenge, instead it encourages people to visit all 47 South Carolina state parks. At your first park, purchase the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks for $2 (or online for $4) and as you visit each park get its corresponding page stamped.  When completed you receive a free Ultimate Outsider T-shirt, and ultimate bragging rights.  This is another challenge that can be started anytime and there is no time limit.  Visit www.southcarolinaparks.com for details.

  • 5 Great Outdoor Tech Hobbies 5 Great Outdoor Tech Hobbies Eric Carrell | 08/23/2016 Get moving by taking technology outside!

    Tech HobbiesGone are the days when techie’ synced with geek’ and was defined as a person who sits in front of a computer all day and has no taste for anything going on outside. Tired of the stereotype, techies have been out to develop fun stuff that can be enjoyed outside while still maintaining their love for technology.

    And the results are amazing; fun tech activities that attract even non-techies and encourage people to explore the outdoors and be active. Here are the best five tech activities you are likely to enjoy outdoors:

    1. Pokémon Go
      Pokémon Go uses iOS and Android mobile devices to find virtual creatures (Pokémon) all over the world using GPS locations. The player can then capture, train or fight with the Pokémon. The power to catch Pokémon increases as you go up the levels and you can also join teams later on. A portable Pokémon Go plus device that can be worn on the wrist keeps you in the game even when you do not have your device at hand.

      The fun of it all is the feeling of excitement a player gets when their phone vibrates to indicate there is Pokémon nearby, and the trick of throwing a Poke Ball to capture it as it tries to escape. Also, the possibility of finding Pokémon anywhere offers the thrill of exploring the world, as Pokémon are often located at popular, local attractions, like parks, trails, museums, and more.  It’s the perfect excuse to lace up your shoes and go for a walk while still playing a video game.

      The game was released barely two months ago, but it has already caught on deeply in many parts of the world.

    2. Geocaching
      Another GPS powered hide-and-seek, Geocaching is more of a hunt for hidden treasure. This treasure can be anywhere in the world, so traveling is Geocaching’s first shot at having fun. Once you locate the cache, you retrieve or store a treasure or leave it the way you find it. You then sign off to show you were at that location.

      Geocaching is a great way to meet new people. There is absolutely no obligation to interact, though, so it works for both extroverts and introverts.

    3. GPS Mission
      This one is pretty easy. You set out on a treasure hunt on some mapped destinations, then answer questions using clues you find at your allotted destination. You compete against opponents and update your progress online, and the winner of the mission is the person who completes the mapped visits before everyone else.

      GPS mission is a great way to stay in touch, create new networks and visit new places all while sneaking in some exercise.

    4. Flying Drones
      Possibly the best outdoor activity to give you the video game feeling, flying the best drones is a sure win when it comes to outdoor fun tech stuff. It combines the virtual power of taking control of strong aircraft from a console with the real environment of the outdoors. Obstacles and damage to your craft are real in this instance, so you have to be even more attentive here.

      It offers an endless possibility of tricks you can try with your drone and is a great way to rope in players of diverse age groups, from your kids to your dad. The versatility of drones is another fun feature. If photography is your hobby, you can combine flying drones and taking creative shots and films, two birds with one drone!

    5. Electric RC Car Racing
      The Remote Controlled (RC) car is more of a pilot program as the world prepares to embrace the unmanned mode of transport. And before it becomes official, what better way to get involved than having it as a hobby!

      It gives you the chance to watch the science of vehicle movement from a distance; to execute all those moves you watch a race and predict what the driver would have done. It offers you a lesson too, as it helps you grab some driving tips that you could actually use in real life. Another excellent bonding activity, as you could just put together a team and have fun all day long!

    Technology has been widely blamed for a cropping culture of laziness, with video games taking most of the flak. Techies’ response in the recent past has however been fantastic, with most new outdoor games building on traditional forms of play to combine both physical activity and tech enthusiasm.

    Call it common ground, at last.

  • Why consistent workouts are essential for new moms Why consistent workouts are essential for new moms Albert Krav | 08/08/2016 Sticking to your workouts will elevate your mood, re-energize your body, and ensure you get back in shape faster.

    AdobeStock_113957708-400After giving birth, your body and mind may feel exhausted, but the last thing you should do is give up your time at the gym. Sticking to your workouts will elevate your mood, re-energize your body, and ensure you get back in shape faster.

    How to Squeeze in a Workout
    The first few months after your baby is born, it can be easy to neglect your own health, as you’ll inevitably be starved for time and sleep. However, the healthier you are, the easier it is to take care of the baby. It’s important to create a schedule where you can still have time for yourself. This is crucial to balancing a new lifestyle and guaranteeing that your self-value is still strongly upheld.

    See if you can work with your family, loved ones, and friends to take care of the baby a few times a week so you can exercise. In the meantime, there are many low-impact stretches and workouts you can do throughout the day. These light exercises not only help boost your energy, but give you the emotional flexibility to withstand the new changes and stresses necessary to be at your best.

    Staying active will help you regain your strength and give you some much needed personal time.

    The Heart of Your Post-Pregnancy Workout
    Cardio is a baseline necessity of any exercise regiment. Getting your heart rate up is the quickest way to shed pounds, slim your figure, and strengthen your core. Jumping jacks, heel kicks, high knees, and half-squats are all great exercises that work core muscle groups while raising the heart rate.

    The most important thing cardio does is revitalize your energy. When you get your heart pumping, you’re improving your cardiovascular efficiency, boosting neurotransmitters, and creating more mitochondria. All of these elements come together to raise your daily energy levels without needing coffee, energy drinks, or extra sleep. In this way, you can tend to your baby’s needs without feeling like you are stretched thin. Feel better naturally and ensure that you are spreading positivity and love into a new home.

    Don’t Make This Classic Mistake
    Many new mothers are only focused on losing weight after their pregnancies, but the biggest mistake new moms make is only working on specific muscle groups. Your intuition may tell you to do crunches and ab workouts to tighten up your postpartum belly; however, this can actually make your stomach worse. Since crunches only work the muscles underneath, to truly get your shape back, you’ll need to burn fat and engage in a full body workout.

    Seeking Balance
    In addition to cardio workouts, supplement your routine with various strengthening exercises like lunges, pushups, and planks. While cardio and strength training create a powerful workout regimen, some of the best exercise routines exist outside of the traditional gym setting.

    High-intensity training—whether it’s rock climbing, swimming, or boxing—can burn fat, amp up your energy, and be productively entertaining. For new moms, working out is about more than just returning to your previous form; it’s about pushing yourself into a new realm of health, so that you’ll be better prepared for the road ahead.

  • When is the best time of day to work out? When is the best time of day to work out? 08/02/2016 Morning, midday or midnight — when’s the best time to work out?

    AdobeStock_89537376-400Morning, midday or midnight — when’s the best time to work out?

    Well, that depends on when’s the best time for you.

    “The best time of the day is when you will do it most consistently, because the benefits of physical activity are tightly linked to the amount you do on a consistent basis,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

    Your best time is based on a “constellation” of factors:

    • location,
    • time of day,
    • type of physical activity and
    • social setting, among others.

    “It’s not just what time, but what activity, with whom and where,” said Pate, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. “This mix of factors for people come together to result in being consistent.”

    Everybody’s Different

    “Different people will have different preferences and predispositions with regard to how they respond to exercise at different times of the day,” Pate said.

    For example, if you’re much more likely to work out consistently with a partner, “then you’re better off to opt for a social part regardless of the time of day,” Pate said. “On the other hand, some people like the solitude, the chance to get away.”

    You might have heard that the best time to work out is early in the morning — to get your metabolism revving or to avoid unexpected distractions during the day that could derail your regimen. “Are there differences in working out at different times of the day? Maybe. But those differences would be minor compared to the overall effect of doing it consistently,” Pate said.

    “If you’re not a morning person, it does no good for you to try to get up at 5 in the morning to work out,” he said. “Try to stack as many cards on your side of the table as possible by doing what’s most likely to work for you. The converse is, don’t make it as hard as it doesn’t have to be.”

    Fit in Fitness

    The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. But what if you’re tight on time? Then, be creative and break up your activity into daily bouts of 3-10-minute increments.

    For example:

    • In the morning, park 10 minutes away from the job and walk briskly.
    • At lunch, walk 10 minutes in or around where you work.
    • In the afternoon/evening, walk briskly 10 minutes back to your vehicle.

    And there you have a 30-minute workout!

    “Accumulation across the day doesn’t have to be performed in one bout, but can be across the day,” Pate said. “More is better, but we’re absolutely certain even modest amounts are much better than being sedentary.” And remember, “exercise” is any kind of physical activity that gets your heart rate up for at least 10 minutes at a time.

    So get moving — at the time that’s right for you!

  • Fairfield Central High School: A partnership for community health Fairfield Central High School: A partnership for community health Elizabeth Gerndt | 07/27/2016 Fairfield Central High School makes open community use of its outdoor facilities work.

    fairfieldHow does Fairfield Central High School make open community use of its outdoor facilities work? “It’s a partnership”, says Principal Tracie Swilley, “If we give back to the community in ways to show them how to be healthy, it’s going to better our community.” According to Principal Swilley, the outdoor track is used daily by community members as a place to walk, jog or run. Located off US-321 Bypass in Winnsboro, Fairfield Central is the only high school in the county. Principal Swilley credits the strong pride for the Griffins as the reason littering, property damage and vandalism have not been a problem. She has also found an open dialogue between the school and the community to be an important part in ensuring that open community use can be practiced in a way that is beneficial for everyone. Because Fairfield Central is located within a tight-knit community, information about open community use of the outdoor facilities is often spread through word of mouth. In addition, the school partners with local organizations for a number of community-wide events, such as Fairfield Behavioral Health Services’ Recovery Walk. These events help bring awareness to the existence of the track and field as well as strengthen the relationship between the school and the community.

    The track is open for community use from dawn to dusk every day, unless it is being used for student activities. During school hours, users are simply asked to check in at the front desk. Location of the track is key. While there is a gate blocking entrance to the track and field from the front of the building, community members are able to access the facilities from the back side of the school. Principal Swilley believes that because the track is located behind the school, it serves as a safe, private place for people to exercise while avoiding the fear of judgment that is often associated with attending a gym.

    Allowing the community access to the Fairfield Central track has been influential in giving the school a positive image in the community. Principal Swilley recommends open community use for schools that are trying to build community rapport. “I would encourage it, especially if it’s a small community like ours where the recreational facilities are limited,” she said. “If people are healthy, that means you have healthier citizens in the community, healthier people that can partner with you, and healthier people that are passing those lifestyles to the children you engage with every day.”

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging schools and districts to expand open community use statewide. Healthy Eating/Active Living coordinators from DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are providing assistance and guidance in an effort to convince schools across South Carolina to make their outdoor facilities available for public use to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles, and stronger communities.

  • Staying Active in Warm Weather Staying Active in Warm Weather 07/08/2016 Ample sunshine, longer days and warmer temperatures provide more opportunities for the whole family to get outside and get active!

    summertimeAmple sunshine, longer days and warmer temperatures provide more opportunities for the whole family to get outside and get active! Try walking, swimming, biking, skating, jumping rope, building a backyard obstacle course, or organizing a neighborhood soccer game. Even gardening, pushing a stroller or walking the dog counts. Learn the American Heart Association’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adultsand the recommendations in children.

    But when the temperature goes up, being active outdoors can be more challenging. It’s easier to become overheated when the sun is beaming down all day. The warm months also bring humidity to many parts of the country. With humidity, your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so your body has a harder time releasing heat. Download our Warm Weather Fitness Guide!

    Tips to keep in mind

    1. Timing is key: Try to avoid exercising outside in the early afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 p.m.
    2. Hydrate: Drink water before, during and after physical activity, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Bring a bottle of water with you, or plan water stops along your route.
    3. Dress for success: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Moisture-wicking fabric can also be a big help. Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat or visor and plenty of sweat-resistant sunscreen.
    4. Listen to your body: Take frequent breaks in the shade, and drink water before you’re thirsty. Allow yourself time to adapt to the heat — some experts say that this can take about 4-14 days. You may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual when it’s very hot.
    5. Doctor’s orders: Check with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine or moving your workout outdoors if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other chronic disease or any medical concerns. Certain medications like beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.
    6. Buddy up: If you can, work out with a partner for safety … and fun!

    Keep cool as you refuel

    Try light, healthy pre- and post-workout snacks that can also help you stay cool, such as:

    • Chilled or frozen fruit
    • Homemade popsicles made from 100 percent fruit juice
    • Fruit smoothies
    • Cold salads loaded with vegetables, beans, legumes and heart-healthy fish like albacore tuna or salmon
    • Crisp, chilled raw veggies like cucumber, carrot or celery with a light, cool dip
    • Cold sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice or slices of citrus or cucumber

    Beat the heat

    If you find you just can’t tolerate the heat, don’t skip out on your workout or physical activity time!

    • Find indoor locations where you can be active, such as a shopping mall, gym or community recreation center.
    • Discover activities you can do in your home or at work.
    • Adjust your workout schedule to early morning or late evening when it’s cooler outside.

    Know the signs of heat-related conditions

    According to the National Institutes of Health, heat illnesses or emergencies can occur with exposure to high temperatures and humidity.

    Dehydration can occur when you don’t replace body fluids lost by sweating. Being even slightly dehydrated can make you feel bad and put you at greater risk for heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

    Watch for these signs of mild to moderate dehydration:

    • Thirst
    • Dry or sticky mouth
    • Dry, cool skin
    • Headache
    • Muscle cramps
    • Not urinating much or darker-colored urine

    Signs of severe dehydration:

    • Not urinating or very dark-colored urine
    • Dry, shriveled skin
    • Irritability or confusion
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Breathing rapidly
    • Fatigue or listlessness
    • Unconsciousness

    Heat cramps are the first stage of heat illness and can share some of the symptoms of dehydration:

    • Muscle cramps and pains, often in the legs or abdomen
    • Very heavy sweating
    • Fatigue
    • Thirst

    Heat exhaustion symptoms include:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Weakness
    • Cool, moist skin
    • Dark urine
    • Nausea and vomiting

    If you experience signs of dehydration, heat cramps or heat exhaustion:

    • Stop exercising right away.
    • Sip water or suck on ice cubes.
    • Move to the shade or indoors as soon as possible.
    • Douse yourself with cold water.
    • Apply cold, wet cloths to the neck, groin and armpits.
    • Seek medical attention if your condition doesn’t improve or gets worse.

    Heat stroke is when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature, and it keeps rising. This is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.

    Call 9-1-1 and take the actions above right away if you experience these symptoms:

    • High fever (above 104 degrees F)
    • Hot, dry, red skin
    • Fast, weak pulse
    • Fast, shallow breathing
    • Irrational behavior or extreme confusion
    • Seizure or unconsciousness
  • Adventure Abounds in Poinsett State Park Adventure Abounds in Poinsett State Park Deanna Anderson | 06/29/2016 Poinsett is quickly becoming the premier location for mountain bikers and hikers.

    PoinsettAs far as State Parks go, Poinsett may be tucked away and less famous than Sesqui, Table Rock, or Myrtle Beach State Parks. But, Poinsett is quickly becoming the premier location for mountain bikers and hikers.

    With almost twenty-miles of trails, campgrounds or cabins, and only twenty minutes from Sumter, Poinsett is the perfect get away for nature and outdoor enthusiasts.  The park also offers a variety of other activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, stand-up paddle boards, and educational programs.  Every year it hosts Take A Kid Mountain Biking, First Day Hikes, National Trails Day, and the Knot Mountain Bike Race; all of which support the community and encourage outdoor and active lifestyles.

    All of the trails in Poinsett are multi-use for both hikers or mountain bikers, vary in length from 1.5 miles to 5.3 miles, and intersect so trails cab be combined for a longer adventure.  Easy to read trail maps are provided in the Ranger’s Office and all of the rangers are very knowledgeable about the trails and can tell you which trail best suits your needs.  The trails are color-coded with clear tree blazes in corresponding colors; making these trails easy for even basic or beginner hikers to follow.

    In addition to the great trails inside the park, the Palmetto Trail also cuts right through the park, utilizing pre-existing trails.  The Palmetto Trail is a 400-plus mile trail that bisects our state in half and is maintained by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation.  It is divided into different sections and can be day- or thru-hiked.  The Wateree Passage starts in Manchester State Forest (which surrounds Poinsett), becomes the High Hills of Santee Passage as it enters Poinsett and then meanders out of the park and down to Mill Creek and the Lake Marion Passage.  The Palmetto Trail adds another 20+ miles of trail near Poinsett.

    Dubbed the “mountains of the Midlands” it is part of the sand hills region—meaning that millions of years ago it was the beach of the ocean—and the diversity of plant life astounds even avid naturalists.  It is one of the few places people can see Spanish Moss draped from a Mountain Laurel.  Poinsett is also rife with history.  It was once a rice plantation, a grist mill (ruins of the mill can still be seen there today), and was one of the parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s.

    Camping is available for primitive sites, with water and electric hook-up, or RV hookups and the campgrounds, as well as other facilities, are always immaculately clean.  The rangers are like family, and the activities offered are simpler and quieter without the hustle and bustle of more tourist destinations.

    Call Poinsett today or visit their website and make arrangements to visit this quaint park.  Spend the day or spend the weekend at Poinsett and fall in love with outdoor adventure all over again.

  • Brockman Elementary: Creating a Culture of Wellness Brockman Elementary: Creating a Culture of Wellness Elizabeth Gerndt | 06/08/2016 Open community use makes Brockman welcoming to everyone.

    brockman“Any of our families will tell you… they always feel welcome here,” explains Brockman Elementary School Principal Dr. Eunice Williams. One way this inviting attitude is apparent is through the school’s open community use of their outdoor recreational facilities. Due in part to its location within a residential neighborhood in Forest Acres, families and community members can easily access the school and often use the property in a variety of ways. The school has multiple playgrounds, a small track, and a softball field that are all available for use by families and neighbors. The playgrounds are gated and locked during the school day and while aftercare is in session for the safety of staff and students. However, the gates remain unlocked afterwards and until the last custodian leaves at 9:30 p.m. On Friday afternoons, the gates are intentionally left unlocked so that families are able to access the playgrounds all weekend. Brockman keeps families informed of this practice through communications such as the school’s biweekly newsletter.

    A few steps were necessary before Brockman Elementary was able to open their outdoor facilities to the community outside of school hours. When Dr. Williams first started at Brockman three years ago, a number of updates were needed to make the property safer. These updates were possible thanks to strong parent involvement and fundraising through the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and Fine Arts Boosters. Dr. Williams points to open communication and strong relationships with parents and neighbors as a crucial aspect to making open community use a success. She believes open community use has helped make her school a safer environment for everyone by increasing community ownership of the property and pride for the school. Brockman Elementary has not experienced any problems with littering or vandalism as a result of allowing open community use. In order to avoid problems with property damage, Dr. Williams recommends that other schools that may be interested in allowing open community use work diligently to clearly communicate rules and expectations and establish an understanding of why those rules are in place.

    Open community use is just one of many ways Brockman Elementary School illustrates that establishing a culture of wellness is a top priority. Rather than participating in traditional fundraising activities, such as selling cookie dough, Brockman participates in an annual FUNd RUN where students pledge to walk/run/move while gathering family and friends to sponsor their efforts. The school also hosts an afterschool running club called Bears on Track with over 40 runners and 10 coaches. Because of its efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle for their students, families and community, Brockman has been recognized with the National Healthy Schools Bronze Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for the past two years. Dr. Williams knows the value of having parents involved and engaged in order to teach why focusing on health is so important. She points to open community use as just another part of this parent education, saying, “I think it’s great to see our families on the playgrounds with our kids because I think it’s a bonding time, time spent away from an electronic device, time out in fresh air, and that’s exactly what we want. That’s a part of our parent education. Spend time with your children in a positive environment, and if it’s here, that’s fine.”

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging schools and districts to expand open community use statewide. Healthy Eating/Active Living coordinators from DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are providing assistance and guidance in an effort to convince schools across South Carolina to make their outdoor facilities available for public use to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles, and stronger communities.

  • McCracken Middle School: Safe Access for the Community McCracken Middle School: Safe Access for the Community Sandra Sessions | 05/25/2016 McCracken Middle School is a school that believes in community involvement and opportunities for every child.

    McCrackenMcCracken Middle School, located in District 7 of Spartanburg County, is a school that firmly believes in community involvement and limitless opportunities for every child. One of the many things that make this school such a welcoming and essential part of the community is that McCracken Middle practices open community use, which allows members of the community safe access to the outdoor facilities on campus.

    The people of Spartanburg have access to the track, basketball courts, sidewalks, tennis courts, and other blacktop areas during the open community use hours. Members of the community walk the sidewalk in front of the school throughout the day. McCracken Middle School has made a simple agreement with the City of Spartanburg, which makes this movement possible. The school unlocks the gate on school days, and the city closes it in the evenings. The city is responsible for providing access on weekends, holidays, and during the summer. These joint efforts ensure that the residents of Spartanburg can use the school grounds and play equipment at their convenience.

    The results of this movement demonstrate that members of the community are becoming more active and more social. Walking groups and friendships are established among frequent visitors, along with a sense of caring and pride in the community. Principal Margaret Peach sees this as an opportunity to invite the community to see the splendor of McCracken Middle, and to build relationships with people who might not have children enrolled in the school. Open community use welcomes the public to be a part of the community. Principal Peach notes that open community use is very important to the area because of the loss of open space as a result of the decreasing size of home lots and an increasing number of students living in apartments. The school campus is a valuable resource for physical activity because it is central to the community, accessible, safe and free.

    Trash accumulation and vandalism are common concerns associated with open community use. However, Principal Peach has noticed the opposite occurring. The public’s growing sense of community from participation in open community use has prompted residents to take greater responsibility in picking up trash left behind by others. Also, the Environmental Science class at McCracken Middle takes time during class hours to pick up trash. Even with the increased use of the school grounds, vandalism has not been an issue.

    The school has also instituted a “no pet” policy, including signage that clearly states the policy to avoid animal waste and other problems that might occur. Like any successful policy, teamwork is a crucial component that is necessary to continue the success of open community use. All staff members are involved in the process, from the school district superintendent and principal to the district safety coordinator and maintenance staff. Open community use has undoubtedly been a benefit to McCracken Middle School, as well as the entire local community.

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging schools and districts to expand open community use statewide. Healthy Eating/Active Living coordinators from DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are providing assistance and guidance in an effort to convince schools across South Carolina to make their outdoor facilities available for public use to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles and stronger communities.

  • Entitlement to a Safe Environment Entitlement to a Safe Environment Sandra Sessions | 05/25/2016 Boiling Springs Middle believes that all people are entitled to a safe and supportive environment.

    boilingspringsBoiling Springs Middle School, located in Inman, SC, believes that all people are entitled to a safe and supportive environment. The school is known for being student-centered and inviting. One example of what makes Boiling Springs Middle School such a safe and inviting part of the community is its attitude towards open community use of their outdoor facilities.
    Outdoor facilities are open for community use anytime outside of school hours. Those facilities include a track, parking lot loop, sports fields, and green space. Because student safety is the school’s number one priority, use of its outdoor facilities is not allowed by the community during school hours.

    The school has noticed that a need in the community has been fulfilled as a result of open community use. The school is seen as a valued part of the community, not only because of its importance as an academic institution, but also because it is a convenient resource for exercising, playing, and socializing. Principal Penelope Atkinson feels like the school belongs to the community, so by allowing open community use, the community has a sense of pride and is invested in the school. She notes that open community use has increased the residents’ familiarity with school her role as principal and other school administrators, which builds a sense of trust. Principal Atkinson says that it is common for parents to bring their child to an after-school event, such as a team practice, and walk the track or play in the green space with other children while waiting. Open community use provides opportunity and convenience for people of all ages to be active.

    Similar to other schools, Boiling Springs Middle has encountered some barriers associated with open community use. For example, the maintenance staff’s duties of picking up trash from the outdoor facilities can take time away from some of their other responsibilities. Also, during the winter months, the outdoor facilities are under-utilized, due to lack of lighting. However, Principal Atkinson mentions that there have been no issues with vandalism, a common concern of open community use.

    Principal Atkinson offers suggestions to other schools that might be considering open community use.

    • Before implementing open community use, ensure that the community will use the facilities. Methods as simple as surveys and advertisements may be helpful in assuring that the community has a need and desire for open community use.
    • Clearly communicate to the community regarding hours of use, trash disposal, and pet policy.
    • Be open to suggestions and input from those who will be using the space.

    Based on her experience with open community use at Boiling Springs Middle School, Principal Atkinson concludes that issues are very minimal compared to the benefits and positive outcomes for the community and school. For this reason, she said that principals should see this as a positive opportunity for their schools instead of a burden.

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging schools and districts to expand open community use statewide. Healthy Eating/Active Living coordinators from DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are providing assistance and guidance in an effort to convince schools across South Carolina to make their outdoor facilities available for public use to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles and stronger communities.

  • School and Community: A Reflection of Each Other School and Community: A Reflection of Each Other Corina Vidaurri | 05/23/2016 Calhoun County High School is located in St Matthews, SC and is at the center of the community.

    calhoun_countyCalhoun County High School (CCHS) is located in St Matthews, SC and is at the center of the community. As an award-winning high school, CCHS received the Bronze Award from US News and World Report for being one of the top high schools in the country for eight consecutive years. Principal Cynthia Johnson has been successful in creating a school environment focused on community engagement and student learning.

    She has made it a priority to allow the community access to the school’s outdoor recreational facilities. That is a big deal in an area where there is a lack of affordable recreational facilities. Principal Johnson is helping fill this void by allowing the community to use the track before and after school. Signs posted on the fences communicate the rules for using the track.
    As a result of opening the school’s outdoor facilities to the community, parents and alumni continue to support the school. At the football games, alumni help clean the facilities after the Saints’ games. Allowing open community use has created a strong community engagement at CCHS. In addition, providing a space for the community to be active creates a healthier community. After visiting the school, it is easy to see that Calhoun County High School explodes with positivity amongst the students, staff, and teachers.

    The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging schools and districts to expand open community use statewide. Healthy Eating/Active Living coordinators from DHEC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity are providing assistance and guidance in an effort to convince schools across South Carolina to make their outdoor facilities available for public use to promote physical activity, healthy lifestyles, and stronger communities.

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