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Olivia Bastin, left, pushes her 20-month-old daughter, Lily, along County Road 9 in Willmar Tuesday as she heads to their home after a walk on the Glacial Lakes State Trail. Olivia said she walks the trail "whenever the weather allows." Adding, "it's nice that the trail's pretty much open now." (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

Spring: A breath of fresh air

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Spring: A breath of fresh air
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Cabin fever has already given way to spring fever for many as spring temperatures beckon people off the couch and into the fresh air.


"There is definitely a drive to get outside right now," said Jeffrey Kennedy, exercise physiologist at Affiliated Community Medical Center's Weight Control Center and Bariatrics.

For the first time in months, people can enjoy the outdoors without the worry of frigid temperatures, ice and snow -- a feeling Kennedy said empowers many.

"This sense of change motivates us and gives us a renewed sense of optimism." Kennedy said.

This renewed sense of optimism may explain why ACMC's Weight Control Center experiences an influx in patients around the spring equinox.

ACMC's Weight Loss Center sees the highest amount of traffic at the start of a new year, yet even the most ambitious can experience a plateau in their weight loss during winter's long stretch. Many grow weary of pounding on a treadmill or pacing the mall, while some rule out exercise altogether -- without which long-term weight loss cannot be maintained, according to Kennedy.

Extended daylight hours and increased temperatures provide the perfect opportunity to include more physical activity in daily routines -- benefits of which reach far beyond the physical. Committing to some form of regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your body weight under control and spring is the perfect season to get started.

"There is a definite psychological boost which accompanies outdoor exercise," Kennedy said.

Beyond the obvious benefits of healthy weight management, research shows that regular exercise reduces symptoms of moderate depression and enhances psychological fitness. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.

Regular exercise also promotes better sleep, reduces stress and boosts your energy level, according to Tiffany Krogstad, a registered dietician with a background in exercise science.

The benefits of exercise are no secret, yet Krogstad said lack of time, lack of energy and distaste for exercise in general are the most common answers she hears from patients who don't regularly exercise.

"There's always time," Kennedy said. "Short bouts of exercise can be just as beneficial as a workout at the gym."

People may not have time in the day to devote solely to a workout, but a 10-minute walk in the morning, during lunch and after dinner can accomplish the same as a 30-minute workout. Warmer spring temperatures allow for easier, more enjoyable walking.

Getting in extra walking can be as simple as parking a car farther away from a building, said Krogstad.

As for those who simply despise exercise? Just give it a chance.

"Start with just a five-minute walk," Kennedy said. To make exercise more enjoyable, Kennedy suggests finding a workout partner or bringing along the whole family for a walk around the neighborhood.

"Once you get outside you will be amazed by all the people you will run into," Kennedy said. "It's really a social thing."

Krogstad recommends finding a hobby that involves exercise or playing a competitive sport.

"The body is meant to move," Kennedy said.

Embrace the warmer weather and get moving.