Be physically fit for a safer and more enjoyable hunting season.

Every hunting season is marred by a rash of heart attacks. In fact, heart attacks take a higher toll than careless hunting practices. Walking while carrying gear, spotting and shooting at a deer, and dragging out a carcass can cause more stress than the heart can handle. That's especially true if you are not physically active, smoke, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or other health problems.

Hunting is more fun and a lot safer when you're not tired and out of breath. Physical fitness will enable you to cover more ground when hunting, get your game out of the woods easier, and avoid clumsiness and dangerous lapses of concentration and caution that accompany exhaustion. Fitness makes you a better shot, too. Shooting while out of breath is not productive.

If you don't exercise regularly, the unaccustomed excitement and exertion in the field can be dangerous. It's a good idea to start building up your endurance before hunting season. But you don't have to train like a marathon runner. Any activity that gets you moving around, even if it's done for just a few minutes each day, can start strengthening your heart and lungs.

Physical activity will also help you lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk for some cancers, control weight and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. Choose an activity you enjoy doing and get a partner or a pet to share it with you. Try walking, bicycling, jogging, gardening, hiking, bowling or dancing. Be creative: park your car a distance from work or get off the bus early and walk the rest of the way; take the stairs, and at lunch walk around the block. Also, malls are ideal for walking in any weather.

Two other good things you can do for your heart are to make healthful, low-fat meal choices and to avoid tobacco. The NYS Health Department recommends eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day and drinking non-fat (skim) or low fat (1 percent) milk. Get in shape now to make your next hunting season the best one you ever enjoyed.

The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of physical activity five or more times a week.

Regular physical activity helps reduce fatigue and manage stress.

Walking is a simple, easy way to strengthen your heart and lungs, tone muscles and generally improve fitness.

Brisk walking burns up to 440 calories an hour.

Walking 3 mph burns 250 to 315 calories per hour. You can lose a pound of fat by burning 3,500 calories.

Decide what your body can do comfortably. If you have been inactive, proceed slowly and build up.

Before brisk walking warm up for 5 to 7 minutes by stretching and light walking.

Wear shoes that are cushioned and provide support.

Before starting a fitness program, seek your doctor's advice, especially if you have medical problems or are over 45 and not regularly active.

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