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10 Ways To Get In Physical Activity in Eagle County

Melanie Wong

Regular aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise is an indispensable part of a healthy life — we all know it, whether we’ve heard it from our health care provider or read it in an article like this one. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, plus muscle strengthening, at least twice a week.

Most of us agree this sounds like a good idea, but real life tends to intervene, with long work hours, children to care for, pesky extra pounds from the holidays or sidelining injuries that force you to slow down. The good news is that reaching the recommended exercise goal doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You can get moving in a myriad of ways that are accessible, fun and fit into your busy life.

Here are 10 ways to get your dose of physical activity in Eagle County.

Sitting is the new smoking. According to a number of studies, those who sit for more than eight hours a day without physical activity develop health risks similar to those associated with obesity and smoking. 

If that’s not enough, extended periods of sitting create changes in our skeletal structure and results in pain and tight or weakened muscles, says Luke O’Brien, a physical therapist and vice president of physical therapy operations at Howard Head Sports Medicine. 

“When we sit with a curved spine and shoulders hunched, our bones begin to think that’s the way we are supposed to be and conform,” says Luke. “There are many consequences associated with that. Back pain develops and hunching decreases the breathing capacity of your chest, to name a couple.” 

Lack of hip extension can also lead to weak glutes and prime you for injury, he adds. He suggests taking scheduled breaks from sitting. Every hour, get out of a sitting position for five minutes and do some exercises and stretches such as putting your arms overhead, or hip extensions. When you do sit, make sure your monitor is at eye level. Even better, look into getting an adjustable standing desk

Lots of people exercise and make healthy decisions using fitness apps or other forms of technology. FitBits are about as ubiquitous as normal watches nowadays, with the added benefit of tracking your steps, calories burned and minutes of activity. FitBits start all users off with a goal of 10,000 steps per day, which equates to about five miles and encourages about 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Strava is another top program that not only tracks your bike or run workout, but connects you with other athletes, allowing you to find routes others have used, compare times and even push yourself harder to climb higher on the leaderboard.

Other popular and highly rated apps include Couch to 5K (geared for beginning runners); Asana Rebel for yogis; and Sworkit, which offers customizable workouts for many different fitness levels and goals.

Many companies encourage their employees to exercise through incentives and benefits. Vail Health sponsors races for employees through the Vail Rec District’s trail running series. Many employees join the bike race series, trail running series and even snowshoe races in the winter as a result, says Total Rewards Manager Amy Felton.

To encourage more consistent exercise, Vail Health employees can also join SafeHealth, a three-month fitness program with weekly drop-in classes taught by an expert from Howard Head Sports Medicine. Another program, SafeFit, aims to prevent injuries by allowing employees to schedule a free appointment with a physical therapist to address aches and pains before they become chronic problems.

On-site workout facilities promote a culture of wellness. Vail Health offers open gym hours at the Shaw Pavilion in Edwards from 12 to 1 p.m., and with an abundance of trails accessible from most of its campuses, employees can head out for a walk, run or even a few turns on the hill.

Still other companies offer recreation stipends or flexible schedules to fit in workouts. Find out what’s offered at your workplace.

Yes, digging around in your garden and mowing the lawn count as “moderate activity” exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Don’t have a yard? Volunteer locally at the Salvation Army Bare Roots community garden or join the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association and volunteer on their trail work days.

When getting off your couch to go running seems lonely, try working out in groups. The Vail Recreation District, WECMRD and various towns offer sports leagues as intense as ice hockey and as low-key as cornhole. Whether it’s kickball, pickleball or sand volleyball that gets you going, sign up and have fun while you get your heart rate up.

Children can wreak havoc on your gym schedule, but they can also help keep you active and even contribute to your workout. If you like to walk or run, push your kiddos in a stroller for an extra challenge. In the winter, torch calories by pulling them around in a sled or in a trailer while you Nordic ski. Taking them to the park also counts if you hop on the jungle gym and do the monkey bars.

At home Workout videos can be done at any time of day in the comfort of your home. DVDs are available for purchase online, or you can borrow from the local library. In addition, YouTube offers a plethora of channels dedicated to every type of workout, from Pilates to TABATA to bodybuilding, and the best part is, it’s free. If you’re a YouTube workout newbie, check out BeFiT, POPSUGAR Fitness, Fitness Blender or Blogilates.

Little things add up, so get your activity in by ditching the shortcuts. Park at the far end of the parking lot at work and walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. At the grocery store, work in extra activity by carrying your bags to your car and then into your house (bonus calories burned if you have a flight of stairs). 

Meeting with a colleague or scheduled for a longer phone call? If appropriate, ask to meet or talk over a walk instead. A Harvard Business Review article reported that “walk and talks” resulted in more creativity, more honest exchanges and more productive meetings. At the very least, it breaks up your sedentary work days and gets you moving.

Being in the midst of the rugged outdoor playground that is Eagle County, there are few excuses not to be active. Choose from skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing, cycling, hiking, mountain climbing, hockey, swimming, dancing, trail running and more. The key ingredient is to choose something you like. 

“It’s not so much about one activity being better than another for exercise,” says Luke. “Do the activities you enjoy most. The important thing is just to move.”  


About Howard Head Sports Medicine

Luke O’Brien | Physical Therapist and Vice President of Physical Therapy Operations at Howard Head Sports Medicine