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Nick Marano: Lace up those shoes and get outside

Nick Marano
For the Nevada Appeal

Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Supervisor Jim Shirk will appear next Sunday:

Time for some good news, Carson City: we take physical fitness seriously.

Using data from 2009-2010, the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation evaluated all 3,143 counties on their performance in several areas such as life expectancy, obesity rates and physical activity. Guess what? Carson City ranks in the top 10 percent of all counties for male and female rates of sufficient physical activity (defined as 30 minutes or more of strenuous physical activity 3-5 days per week). In all, 57.4 percent of female adults and 64.4 percent of males regularly conduct physical activities.

Famously fit San Diego County barely beat us with 64.5 percent of the men there conducting regular physical activities. To be fair, some of the other survey results were more middling, but we can all be proud of being in the top 10 percent of something that reflects well on us a community.

Is it really surprising, given the Carson’s history and geographic location, that we’re such an active community? We are blessed with a variety of terrain to include high alpine, rolling hills, river valley and high desert — and we take advantage of it all.

As a transplant, I was attracted to Carson City for the outdoor recreation activities I experienced as a young Marine at Pickel Meadows. In the summer I like to trail run, hike and mountain bike on some of the most awesome topography anywhere. Most of the time, I’m able to do so without getting lost! In winter, I ski. A few years ago, my son convinced me to take up snowboarding, which I did. After breaking a few bones, I decided it would be safer if I stuck to skiing, which I did. This year, Supervisor Brad Bonkowski talked me into taking up snowshoeing. So, my wife and I bought our snowshoes and waited for snow. We waited a long time. We finally got a chance a few weeks ago to cut the zip ties off them and put them to good use. Even though I had been on the same trails in the summer, it was a whole different world. I saw a kayak display last weekend and am thinking that may need to be my next big adventure.

All of this world-class activity is in our backyard and we take advantage of it at high levels. Last week, Supervisor Lori Bagwell wrote about the City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space assets. Those assets represent the City’s legacy for future generations. Get out and enjoy your Open Space, particularly the City’s extensive trail network.

For those of you who regularly exercise, congratulations and keep it up.

For those of you who don’t, it’s easy to start. The upshot to our mild winter is that the afternoon weather is perfect for a walk. If you can get out at lunch, take a stroll around the Capitol. It’s a nice walk and there may be a protest or two to make it a bit more exciting. Some people think that physical fitness requires pushing yourself to the maximum. Not true at all, in fact The American Heart Association says that three 10-minute walks per day alone will improve your heart health. This is literally beginning a journey of a thousand miles with a single step. So take it!

The tie-in between physical activity and physical health is obvious, but the connection with mental health and mental functioning is just as important. The Framingham Offspring Study, sponsored by Boston University, tracked a cohort of people from age 40 to age 60 and found that people with higher levels of physical fitness had statistically higher levels of brain functioning as they aged. Other studies have linked levels of physical activity in young adulthood to mental performance in middle age. In other words, the more physically active you are when you are 18 to 25 years old, the sharper you’ll be in middle age and the less chance you’ll develop dementia in old age.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start and you can make an important impact on your physical and mental health with moderate activity. Carson City has something for everyone so lace up those shoes and get out there!

Nick Marano is the city manager of Carson City. He can be reached at nmarano@carson.org or 775-887-2100.