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Valerie Bertinelli Gives Thanks For Walking

By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

Valerie Bertinelli is hitting her stride again. After beginning a new life apart from Eddie Van Halen, she's just finished a new television movie, and has a new fitness workout she absolutely loves.

"I took up walking," says Bertinelli, who is best known for her starring role on One Day at a Time. "That probably doesn't sound extremely intense -- and it is definitely different than spinning which I like to do once a week - but I walk a lot with weight."

By combining weight-bearing exercise and walking, Bertinelli is enjoying aerobic heart benefits, weight loss, and increased bone health.

"I've already lost six pounds since I started recently," states Bertinelli.  "But truthfully, as I get older I am less concerned with how I look as how I feel."

Many Americans will be feeling too full after over-stuffing themselves with Thanksgiving dinner. Many health experts recommend people go for a walk after eating to aid in digestion. According to a Prevention magazine study as many as 65 million Americans are regular walkers. But with skyrocketing obesity rates, more Americans clearly need to discover the benefits of frequent walking.

Bertinelli discovered walking through her fitness trainer Debbie Rocker, who was one of the original developers of spinning. Rocker's celebrity client list has included Michael Chiklis, Kristen Davis, David Duchovny, Carrie Otis, Lisa Rinna, Courtney Thorne Smith and Rod Stewart.

"She is an amazing motivator and I turn to her whenever I need fitness inspiration," Bertinelli says. "Everything she's ever done with me has worked so when she told me about walking with weight, I just did it."

Weight gains

Bertinelli is, of course, not striding the hills of Los Angeles carrying dumb-bells. Nor does she wear ankle or hand weights. She wears a new fitness product that Rocker created called the Walkvest, which is designed to be worn after placing the desired number of half-pound metal weights into the mid-section of the vest.

"This distribution of weight preserves the natural stride of the body," explains Rocker. "But the weight should not be too heavy for an individual or it will prevent them from obtaining the aerobic benefit of walking. There's a balance we strive for."

"Walking is a sparring exercise to the joints and what would maximize the benefits of walking is including a little bit of extra weight," says Robert Klapper, clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. "But ankle weights and hand-held weights are not a good way to distribute the weight. While a person with advanced arthritis in the lower back should probably not be adding extra weight, the vest concept is advantageous for many patients."

Klapper say there are additional benefits to walking aside from losing weight and strengthening the heart. Walking with weight is good for your bones. 

"Even though I am a surgeon, I am a big believer in trying to treat arthritis without surgery," Klapper says. "What has become very clear is that while the pool exercises are very effective in strengthening the muscle, protecting the joint, making people feel better and avoiding using medications - the downside is the bones aren't being stressed enough."

And that can create another problem for seniors - osteoporosis. And according to Klapper even young people are at risk. 

Bone biopsy studies at the University North Carolina on female swimmers, tennis players and sorority members revealed that the sorority sisters had osteoporosis but so did the swimmers who were in incredible aerobic shape. The tennis players had the best bone density.

But many weight-bearing exercises can inflict damage in the form of arthritis. The dilemma is how to get weight-bearing benefits without arthritic wear.

"Exercise comes in two flavors - nurturing and abusive," Klapper states. "I only consider three nurturing - the pool, the bike and ski machines like Nordic track. Walking with weight would be the fourth. This is a holistic, low-impact solution that will also help keep calcium in the bones."

As a woman, Bertinelli likes the osteoporosis prevention advantages of her new fitness program.

"The weight-bearing walking is great because I know it helps with keeping bones healthy," Bertinelli says. "I'm not old but I am 43 and bone health is one of things you start to think about."

Walk it off

Starting a fitness program will also be on the minds of many Americans this Thanksgiving as beltlines expand even more. But weight loss begins with exercise.

"Walking is a universal language when it comes to fitness," Rocker states. "The family can do it together. It's great for just about everyone, especially men and women over 55, but it's also great for people who are very fit but no longer want to beat up their bodies trying to maintain their fitness level."

Optimally, Rocker recommends walking four to six days a week. "Most people should be walking at least five days a week for 30 minutes," Rockers says. "If you average this, you're going to lose weight and be fit."

Walking with weight is also efficient.

"Rather than doing a 40 minute spin class and going into the gym to lift weights, this program combines both forms of exercise in one 45 minute workout," Rocker notes.

But the fitness expert is quick to point out that walking for exercise is not like going for a stroll in the park after a big turkey dinner.

"Proper walking is walking with purpose," stresses Rocker, who coaches vest-wearers through 20, 30 and 45-minute walking workouts on CD. "You have to walk like you mean it as exercise. You have to behave like you are in training. The vest helps provide this mindset by indicating that when you wear it you're in training. And on the CDs I don't let you forget it either."

Also recommended is purchasing a heart rate monitor, which will help to provide a measure of the exercise level being achieved.

Bertinelli admits to wearing the vest just about everywhere she goes.

"You can walk around the house with the Walkvest and get some weight-bearing benefits for your bones," says Bertinelli, who recently started surfing lessons. "I wear about five pounds in the vest and it helps burn extra calories. I'd love to walk on the beach after surfing but I'm too tired."

As for what she'll probably do after Thanksgiving dinner?

"What else? Go for a walk with my son," Bertinelli says.

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Created: 12/4/2003  -  John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 12/4/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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