With warmer weather approaching, many  of us are looking forward to spending  more time outside. More daylight and safer, less icy sidewalks offer renewed opportunities to get moving.

Eileen Whalen
President and Chief Operating Officer, UVM Medical Center

It’s fitting that May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, because one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis, no matter our age, is by regularly getting exercise that builds our bones and muscles – and we can do that by simply going for a walk.

As Vermont’s health care community explores the best ways to improve the health of our state as a whole, it is impossible to ignore the fact that our population is aging rapidly. With aging comes increased risk for many diseases, including osteoporosis, fall risk, potential for chronic pain issues, struggles with dementia including Alzheimer’s, and so many more concerns.

Preventing and managing the chronic health problems that can get worse over time is becoming a top priority here in Vermont and across the country. In fact, in our most recent Community Health Needs Assessment – a report the UVM Medical Center publishes every three years identifying issues that need special focus in the community – healthy aging made the top 10. What can we do today to develop healthy habits that will last, and help us avoid diseases like osteoporosis?

As individuals, we can recognize that small, day-to-day decisions can often have a big impact on our future health – whether we’re looking 5 months into the future, 5 years, or further. Start walking 1 mile once a week, and you might be walking 3 miles 3 times a week by the end of the year. Try out a yoga or Tai Chi class, and you may have found a new passion.

On a wider scale, health care providers will need to coordinate better to help each of us get care in the right place, at the right time. This will be an ongoing challenge, but there is so much potential for cooperation among health care providers and community partners.

As each of us continues down our own path toward better wellness, it’s important to check in with a primary care provider regularly. They can help identify ways to get and stay active that align with our health care goals for the near future, as well as for the long term.

Late April and early May are such a great time of year to finally get back outdoors, exercise in the fresh spring air, and build healthy habits that will bring benefits for years to come. I know I’m looking forward to some nice weather for walking my dog before work!

If you have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at AskEileen@UVMHealth.org.

Eileen Whalen, MHA, RN, is a former trauma nurse who now leads The University of Vermont Medical Center. She currently serves as co-chair of the RiseVT board, and co-chair of the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance board.