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New SPH Trail Teaches the Power of the Heart, Physical Activity

By Allison Eatough ’97

Kinesiology Professor Jim Hagberg built his career on researching how exercise lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, practicing what he teaches outside the classroom by walking some 30 miles a week in Howard County, Md.’s Middle Patuxent Environmental Area (MPEA).

Now he’s developed another way to educate Marylanders about the human heart: a trail at the MPEA dedicated to the organ’s capabilities.

The “Heart Discovery Trail” opens Feb. 11 in honor of American Heart Month. It’s an existing one-mile loop through the MPEA that now includes 16 educational signs with facts and quizzes about the heart. The trail is in partnership with the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

Trail visitors will learn what the heart is made of, how often it beats in a day, how much blood it pumps and how much physical activity children need compared to adults. They’ll also measure their own pulse before and after running or walking. Afterward, visitors can complete a survey developed by Pamela R. Smith-Purgason M.P.H. ‘23, to gauge the impact and effectiveness of the Heart Discovery Trail.

While the trail is “all heart,” it could be a model for other health topics: mental health, bone health and obesity, and its methods could also be used in other settings, including libraries and schools, Hagberg said.

“People take the heart and its ‘amazingness’ for granted,” Hagberg said. “This trail will help teach people of all ages about the power of the heart and the importance of physical activity for overall heart health.”

The Heart Discovery Trail, located in the MPEA at 5795 Trotter Road in Clarksville, will be open from dawn to dusk Feb. 11-21. For more information, call 410.313.4726.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.