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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 10 - 16, 2003


Environment and exercise enhance health consciousness

First in a three part series about health and fitness in the Wood River Valley


Express Staff Writer

Does an apple a day still keep the doctor away? Maybe, maybe not, it depends on what else one does every day. What is known is that health and fitness are intertwined, and that maintaining physical health is imperative to having a happy life, not to mention a long one.

The focus on fitness is one reason many people have settled in the Wood River Valley, which offers abundant access to healthcare and fitness opportunities.

Although the valley has St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center with its state of the art diagnostic technologies as well as the Hailey Medical Clinic, the Blaine Manor extended care facility and the newly opened Ketchum Urgent Care office, people hereabouts tend to rebuff the need for medical care.

After all, though life flight services to regional hospitals in Boise and Salt Lake City are important, we’d much rather not have to make use of them.

Nonetheless, as people strive to take full responsibility for health care they still make visits to the doctor. The Hailey Medical Clinic, for instance, with its 10 full-time health care providers, manages 30,000 patient visits per year.

St. Luke’s WRMC in fiscal year 2001-2002 experienced more than 7,600 emergency room visits and took nearly as many x-rays.

Getting beyond acute treatment for daily fitness maintenance and therapeutic healing, the valley boasts so many athletic trainers, yoga instructors, physical therapists and energy work instructors that an eager athlete can almost get a workout just thumbing through the yellow pages.

Health and fitness have been trendy so long, most trainers today don’t even remember who Jack LaLanne is. But after all the trends fat jiggler exercise machines, jogging, Jane Fonda, Martial Arts, Tae Bo, Pilates, step classes and spinning, it has become obvious that if a program works, never mind the latest trend. Just keep doing what works.

What is apparent is that exercise is about individuality. Instincts, good judgment and motivation are the best methods to staying active. What is also important is a base of health. Maintenance can follow in many ways.

Yvette Hubbard, a certified trainer at the Sun Valley Athletic Club, (the oldest club in the valley at 20 years) says, "There are five elements to being fit, I believe, in equal measure: nutrition, cardio-vascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. A healthy person should incorporate these five elements,"

People either live here because they love recreating in the outdoors or fall in love with the recreational possibilities because of the plethora of activities.

"Already competitive people come here and then they feed off that adrenaline rush and others feed off that example," Hubbard says. "Fitness is a byproduct of that."

In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of Adults from 1988-1994, it was found that a greater proportion of people in the Western states exercise, while the Northeast and South have the lowest proportion of residents who exercise regularly.

Why is that?

Perhaps it’s the open space. Perhaps people move to the West because they are adventurous and outdoorsy to begin with and are looking for a place to express that part of themselves. Or maybe it’s genetic. Pioneers who migrated West were hard working people, who may have passed the outdoor recreation ethic down to their offspring.

Another reason could be the abundance of negative ions in the Western air. These are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that are inhaled in abundance in certain environments such as the mountains and on the water. Once they reach the bloodstream, negative ions—oxygen atoms with an extra electron—are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost daytime energy. A normal ion count in fresh country air is 2,000 to 4,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter versus approximately 100 per cubic centimeter on the Los Angeles freeways during rush hour.

In fact, according to a 2003 Outdoor Industry Foundation's Business for Wilderness program, Western states had the highest percentage of active outdoor people, led by Idaho at 87 percent followed by Wyoming, Utah and Montana, where more than 80 percent of the population participates in at least one outdoor activity.

The nationwide study examined 21 specific human-powered activities, such as backpacking, fly-fishing, whitewater kayaking and cross-country skiing.

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain the Wood River Valley is a Mecca of health and fitness. Healing can come in many forms, some require a healthy bank account, still others merely require a person to simply step outside.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.