By Emma DiPasquale
Emma DiPasquale is a rising senior at John Carroll University. She studies English and environmental studies and hopes to pursue a masters degree in English literature with focus in environmental theory. Emma worked as an intern at EcoWatch last summer.
It was a cold winter evening in February when citizens gathered at University Heights Public Library, as they had and would again at key locations around Cleveland's east side, dreaming of a network of bike trails and hiking paths connecting their parks and open spaces. In a small room across the hall from a noisy children's reading nook, poster boards and stickers were set up for community members to share their input on where they would like to see new on-and off-road trails for what's officially being called the Eastside Greenway project.
Generally, a greenway system refers to an open space or natural areas that are linear in form. Cities down south and out west have developed these systems in recent years for different purposes that align with their needs.
Greenways take on different sets of characteristics depending on the goals established for it, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They can be for recreation, conservation, restoration, water quality improvement and environmental education. The Eastside Greenway is planned for recreational purposes, which includes activities such as bicycling, jogging, running and walking.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources states that the benefits of greenway systems are multitudinous. Greenways can promote healthy living in that they encourage more exercise among users. Since a recreational greenway allows for many different uses, it attracts a wider audience with varying preferences in terms of what types of exercise they will use the trails for.
Greenways also provide environmental advantages, including improving air quality by decreasing the number of greenhouse gases emitted because of the alternative transportation routes. Economic improvement is also a factor, as greenways increase property values because of the added green space, which in turn increases tax revenue, helping to filter money through local governments.
Greenways are important in developing communities because they provide a means of getting from place to place without a car: to school, a friend's home, the library, a restaurant or work, to name a few destinations. They are safer alternatives to streets because they separate the user from automobiles and they also provide a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere for the user.
The Eastside Greenway project promotes this idea of linking various neighborhoods to different locations throughout communities. The project seeks to connect the east side of Cleveland with 19 Greater Cleveland municipalities through a unified trail network that will link neighborhoods to a variety of destinations and existing green spaces such as the Metroparks reservations of Acacia, Euclid Creek, Lakefront and North Chagrin.
The project began back in the summer of 2012, according to Anna Swanberg, project manager for LAND Studio. At the time, Kirby Date, a student at Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin's College of Urban Affairs, was doing community outreach work near Forest Hills Park in East Cleveland. Date was interested in the idea of a unified greenway system, considering the somewhat close proximity of Forest Hills Park to Euclid Creek Reservation. Date presented her ideas to the Cleveland Metroparks Board of Commissioners. Coincidentally, her proposal was overheard by LAND Studio, a non-profit developer of Cleveland's urban parks. LAND Studio decided to expand the project, and placed Swanberg on the project that summer.
Swanberg, who is experienced in landscape architecture, has been involved in every stage of the planning process including leading a scoping study in 2012 and 2013 regarding the areas included in the greenway project. The study came to a close in 2013 and it was decided that a more formal plan was needed. Swanberg, with LAND Studio, partnered with the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission to receive a Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grant from the Northeast Areawide Coordinating Agency to conduct a planning study for the Eastside Greenway in 2014 and 2015.
The planning process will result in specific trail recommendations across the east side, suggested trail locations and a strategy for moving forward into design and implementation of these trails in the master plan, according to Swanberg.
Swanberg's other duties included identifying communities to include in the project, engaging those communities to get them on board, identifying missing links in these communities and, more recently, publicizing the meetings held by the Eastside Greenway partners LAND Studio, SmithGroup JJR, Michael Baker International, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and Northeast Areawide Coordinating Agency.
Currently, many trail segments are already in place on the east side, but they lack critical connections, according to the Eastside Greenway website. Linking all the trails would make inter-community connections, provide safe, alternative means of transportation, decrease the need for cars and other vehicles, and improve quality of life for a broad group of people, says Swanberg. Today, approximately 30 miles of trails are already in place. When completed, the Eastside Greenway will link about 60 miles of trails.
At the February public meeting in University Heights, Neal Billetdeaux, senior landscape architect for the architecture, engineering and planning firm SmithGroup JJR, and Nancy Lyon-Stadler, traffic and planning manager at Michael Baker International, kicked off the program with a PowerPoint about the project.
Several maps outlined existing and potential new trails, demonstrating the full extent of this interconnected network. The maps showcased existing trails, missing links and secondary connectors, which provide on- and off-street connections between the major green spaces that already exist to destinations such as job centers, community services and commercial areas. Connecting this system could be as simple as adding different types of bike lanes to certain roads, or as extensive as building off-road, multi-use trails.
A variety of bike path options were also pictured in the presentation. These included shared-lane markings, or sharrows, which are markings placed in the center of a travel line to indicate that a cyclist may use the full lane. Bike lanes were also pictured, which are paths that are not separated from roads. Protected bike lanes, which are separated from roads, were pictured as well. Protected lanes are more expensive since they use posts, curbs, grass or parked cars to keep the bike lane away from traffic.
A 2012 study done by Portland State University by Jennifer Dill, a professor of urban studies and planning, analyzed these types of trails and their users. Dill found that about 57 percent of Portlanders would like to ride bikes more, but are simply afraid to ride among cars. The study found that protected bike lanes help to diminish fear among this group of potential path users.
“Information on these types of bike lanes is the kind of evidence that helps us, in terms of what to present to potential Cleveland users," Billetdeaux commented. He mentioned Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for Portland's Office of Transportation, and his paper, “Four Types of Cyclists," as helping the Cleveland project's planners understand which types of bikers use which types of trails.
Billetdeaux said he anticipates that protected bike lanes will play a large role in Cleveland's new greenway system. “In terms of the missing link segments, we are really hoping to create off-road trails. We know we won't be able to get that everywhere, so we are planning on creating protected bike lines in the areas we can't get off-road trails. We are trying not to do anything less than that."
“For the secondary connectors, we are thinking about more varied paths," he added. “We could start with protected bike lanes, and go down to regular bike lanes and sharrows from there."
Billetdeaux cited Atlanta, St. Louis and Minneapolis as specific examples of greenways systems that have influenced the plans for Cleveland. In the works since 1991, Atlanta's greenway system, or PATH Foundation, has seen success in terms of bridging the gaps between different communities and have seen improvements in bringing people together from all races, ages and income levels. Atlanta's network of trails continues to grow as its citizens look for safer ways to exercise and connect with their neighbors. Overall, the PATH Foundation says it has encouraged health and well-being, promoted public safety and increased real estate values. This system has shown what Cleveland is working towards and ultimately hopes to achieve, said Billetdeaux.
The project has some other goals that are not as clearly visible, such as fixing up vacant properties, working with communities and their existing plans to add trails in their areas, and including environmentally friendly buildings and facilities into the plan.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health, along with LAND studio, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and Human Impact Partners, did a health impact assessment to help in the planning process. The formal definition of health impact assessment, according to the World Health Organization, is a combination of procedures, methods and tools that systematically judges the potential, and sometimes unintended, effects of a proposed project, plan or policy on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population. Health impact assessments also try to identify ways to manage those effects.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health representative highlighted the target areas for this health impact assessment during the meeting, noting that the overarching focus was equity. The assessment centered around three main ideas: crime or fear of crime, social cohesion and transportation, and physical activity and safety.
The health impact assessment came up with several recommendations to ensure equity. Establishing neighborhood watch groups, ensuring good geographic distribution of facilities, incorporating play or recreation areas, creating an education campaign and a comprehensive greenway management plan were a few of the recommendations.
“We have never had the opportunity to work with a health impact assessment for evaluation," Billetdeaux said. “Empirical data will help us in our planning process. The only downside with this is that a lot of people who attended the meetings didn't seem to understand the connection or importance of the health impact assessment. We are trying to make this clearer in our next round of public meetings."
The feedback during the Feb. 3 meeting was sometimes skeptical, but overall the communities were very supportive of the concept, according to Lyon-Stadler. There were a lot of questions from a diverse audience, but ultimately, the meeting provided the last bit of feedback the partners needed to take the next steps. For now, those next steps are to refine prioritization methods, which means the partners will determine which trails are the most important, given the community feedback from the meetings and an online survey, while keeping in mind the original goals of the project.
The partners shared a master plan at the public meetings held this month, and by July 2015 a final plan will be complete, according to Lyon-Stadler. “This is by far my favorite project I've worked on," said Swanberg. “I've been pleased with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community members. I know they're excited to see this plan finished and begin to see some development in their neighborhoods."
Lyon-Stadler, another project partner and big-time cyclist, says she has ridden most of the study area on her bike, which she believes gives her a different perspective. “This project has been very fun," she says. “Working on projects like these is definitely one of my favorite things to do professionally because I'm out there. I appreciate having the parks and the green space and the opportunity to be out in nature and breathing and moving, so if I can make that easier for others that is hugely rewarding."
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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