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Community Corner: The health benefits of the Rountree Branch trail
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Southwest Wisconsin is a spectacular place to live, work, and play.

As family and friends know, I enjoy living and working in a community that allows me to pursue my double life as CEO of Southwest Health and “weekend warrior.”

When I learned the Rountree Branch Trail was being enhanced, the life-long athlete in me was immediately excited about all the activities my family and I will be able to enjoy. Just as excited was the healthcare CEO in me who understands the tremendous personal and societal benefits of exercise and fitness. When I am not working with my team of staff, doctors, and volunteers at Southwest Health, you can find me playing a pickup game of basketball, running/walking the trails, swinging a golf club, or my real passion, traveling the Tri-State area to find competitive racquetball matches.

I do all of these activities because I believe in the importance of physical activity, and regular activity is important for all of us. 

My family and I already use the Rountree Branch Trail regularly, and I challenge our entire community to do likewise, to do whatever activity works for you. A lifetime of physical activity is the real goal.

Maybe a membership at any of our local fitness facilities is the way to go for you. Or perhaps it‘s simply spending time in one of our many area parks. The most important thing is to keep moving. According to a recent U.S. Surgeon General report on physical activity and health in America, more than half of the U.S. population does not participate regularly in any type of exercise. That inactivity leads to poor health.

The difference a little activity makes is measurable. A Nebraska study found that for every $1 spent on trails communities experience a nearly $3 savings in direct medical costs. Trails reduce costs by encouraging healthy activities. In fact, among walkers, a team of researchers at St. Louis University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than half will increase their time and distance walking when they begin using a trail.

At Southwest Health, our vision is to create a healthier Southwest Wisconsin. We’re here to partner with you to encourage healthy personal activities and effective community programs that help reduce the incidence of heart disease and other chronic diseases, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. According to a 2008 study in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine, access to nature trails for walking and biking lessen health risks associated with physical inactivity. Certainly, the expansion and enhancement of our local trail is not going to eliminate all health issues, but it is an important community resource with tremendous potential to help create a healthier community.

I don’t believe simply telling others to eat well and exercise is the answer. What people need is a community that’s behind you, investing in and maintaining valuable resources like trails and supporting you with healthcare and programs to help you live better. More access to trails translates to better overall community health and ultimately to lower healthcare costs.

This fall Southwest Health will be introducing an exciting new sports service — professional performance training designed to raise high school and college athletes as well as weekend warriors to their best possible performance.  Expert clinicians will give athletes personalized, scientifically proven, sport-specific training to optimize results.

Gone are the days when only athletes need to concern themselves with exercise. No matter what your activity level, our community is home to a range of fun and energizing possibilities that burn calories and fuel healthier bodies. It’s time to get out and get active.

I invite all of you to take time to enjoy the Rountree Branch Trail. Walk your way to better health, one day at a time, one step at a time.

The Community Corner is a column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.