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Spring Fever: what getting outside means for your waistline

Hilary Brueck/ Uptown Radio

Hilary Brueck/ Uptown Radio

HOST INTRO: Ah, springtime in the park. Earthmovers smooth over pocked roads. Fountains gurgle awake from a winter of slumber. After such a harsh cold hibernation, getting outside seems only natural.

Reporter Hilary Brueck laced up her running shoes to find out how new spring moves change how the body works AND how it looks.



I am running alongside tour guide Angie Knudson as she starts out on a morning jog. The sun is still coming up over midtown skyscrapers. Knudson is excited to be heading towards Central Park. And I have to agree, it has been a while since I’ve enjoyed running outside this much:

KNUDSON: “I forgot what it feels like! Running!”

Brueck: By the end of winter, even though it was warmer than it had been. I was just so cold the whole winter I was like ‘I can’t do this anymore!’”

KNUDSON: Oh, I know! I think everyone is really frustrated with the weather

As we reveled in the spring temperatures, I couldn’t help but wonder- just what’s happening to our bodies in the spring, when we head outside to run again?

So I asked Carol Ewing Garber, a professor of movement science at Columbia University. She said when we become more active, our body changes the ways it uses energy:

GARBER: A lot happens right at the cell from the first moment that you start moving around. It improves the way your body uses the fuels, fat and sugars, so you tend to use a lot more fat when you’re active.

Garber says that when we begin to exercise again, fat begins to burn away FIRST at the midsection. So while crunches and ab workouts are more popular for toning stomach muscles, reducing fat around the waistline doesn’t require any special set of ab work.

GARBER: In fact, aerobic exercise, running or cycling or any kind of longer duration activity, the first area that gets affected is your belly fat.

Garber says that stomach fat is some of the most dangerous fat on the body.

GARBER: “It’s associated with development of not only heart disease but diabetes and seems to be implicated in many different chronic diseases.”


Back at the park, there are packs of runners and bikers out. Sarah Spicer, who lives on the Upper West Side is catching her breath at the end of her workout. She says she’s enjoying being outside again now that it’s warmer:

SPICER: “I’m able to walk to work, run in the park more often than hitting the treadmill. It’s kind of reinvigorating, as you can see there’s ten times more people than there was a week ago. Everybody’s kind of got the spring bug, the spring fever.

Spring fever even professional running coaches can appreciate. Like Jenny Hadfield. The Chicago-based running trainer says she was working out inside all winter. Now that the days are longer and she’s out in the sun, she’s starting to have more energy:

HADFIELD: That translates to being reborn in a way from a fitness standpoint, setting goals, looking to do new and fun things, get outside and break the hibernation, especially this year with the winter being so long.

Hadfield recommends her new clients start with 30 minutes of movement they enjoy.

HADFIELD: “It’s all about finishing feeling happy. Finishing feeling like you’ve done something, but not so much that you won’t want to do it again, or not so much that you’re sore for three days.”

That can be tough when it’s your first run of the season and you’re excited to finally be out in shorts and a t-shirt again. Karl Pawlewicz of City Running Tours, says sometimes he’s too excited to get out:

PAWLEWICZ: “You get a little bit too excited and push yourself too hard- then you’re like ‘maybe I should slow down a little bit!’”


Out on the roads in Central Park, I was excited to be running too. But I was also struck by the importance experts placed on having fun.

Maybe trimming away at some of the body’s most dangerous fat stores is as simple as enjoying the morning with the company of a running partner.

So who’s ready to hit the pavement tomorrow at 7?

Hilary Brueck, Columbia Radio News.

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