An interview with Dr. Mark Hanson, cardiologist and trail user

Dr. Mark Hanson and Newton Trails' board chair, Duane Ford, recently walked together on sidewalks and the Cricket Frog Trail from Hanson's Covington home to his office. Hanson has lived in Covington since 1996 and been a practicing cardiologist since 1993. He and some friends started Georgia Heart Specialists in 1999. Here is what he told Ford about trails and their health benefits. "I think the trails here have been one of the greatest benefits, one of the best changes, in the past 25 years," said Hanson. "I think they have improved the quality of life immensely. We also have the senior center and I have a lot of patients who go out there to walk. Now, our trails and the center are connected." When asked about the local need for more exercise, Hanson said, "I imagine Newton County has more heart disease, more diabetes, and more hypertension than the national average. Everybody benefits from more exercise. I see a lot of my patients exercising, and since the trails have been built, I think more people do get out." "It's important to have places where people can go out and feel safe," continued Hanson. "You would think that people in more rural areas would have more ability to get out and walk, but if you are living on a busy road and people are whizzing by at 50 mph, you may not want to. So I encourage patients to use the trail system." Hanson offered the following recommendations, “Exercise should not be complicated. I tell people 30 minutes a day. Get out and do something consistently. My patients often say 'I walk at work,' but the problem with that is it's three minutes here and two minutes there. Short little bursts of activity." "But what you want to do is 15 to 30 minutes of sustained activity to get your heart rate up. It does not need to be running. It does not need to be practicing for a 10K race. It just has to mean getting out and moving your body. Walking like we are doing right now is plenty to give you the benefits of that exercise. If you can do it 15, or even better 30, minutes every single day then you are going to get most of the health benefits. "If people are starting an exercise program they need to make sure it is safe for them to do so," said Hanson. "If they are exercising everyday, it's probably pretty safe to continue. But if they are going to be doing something new, its best to ask their doctor if it's safe for them to do so.