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Musician takes to Los Angeles streets to drop pounds, get fit

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* Fitness buffs say brisk walking can do wonders for health

* Using music to motivate, he encourages others to step out

By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK, Feb 18 (Reuters) - People who believe a healthy lifestyle is expensive should speak to "Papa" Joe Aviance, a Los-Angeles musician who lost 250 pounds using the city's sidewalks as his treadmill, its parks as his gym and a discount store as his health food destination.

The formerly 450-pound (204 kg) Aviance said he owes his now fit 200-pound body to walking five miles (eight km) a day, every day around his inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood.

"I thought, 'What's the easiest exercise I can do? I can't afford the gym, so I'll use the street,'" said Aviance, who was unemployed when he began his fitness regime in 2011.

"I like to say the sidewalk is my treadmill."

He swapped his junk food for vegetables and trail mix, purchased mostly from a discount shop, and laced up his walking shoes. At first, drenched in sweat, he barely made it around the block, despite the motivating fast-paced dance music blasting from his headphones. Each day he went a little farther.

Five miles, or 10,000 steps, a day is a goal for most healthy adults walking for activity, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Michele Stanton, a fitness instructor and author of "Walk Off Weight," said to reap the full benefits of walking you need to maintain a brisk pace, defined by ACSM as three-to-four miles (4.8 to 6.4 kilometers) an hour.

"That's not your window-shopping pace," said Stanton, who is based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. "At about three miles (4.8 kilometers) per hour a rough calorie burn estimate is 100 calories per mile."

Stanton said that once a walker hits four miles (6.4 kilometers) per hour the burn picks up.

"After five miles (eight kilometers) per hour walking becomes harder than running," she said.

Because walking carries a lot less risk for injury than high-impact activity, it is ideal for high-risk populations, sedentary and overweight people, even if their long-term goal is to run, she said.

Even walking in the living room has benefits.

WALKING FOR HEALTH

"There was a 2012 study that had people step in place during the commercial breaks of a TV show," Stanton said. Over the hour, they took about 2,000 steps and burned some 148 calories.

Pennsylvania-based fitness expert Leslie Sansone has been creating "walk at home" programs for 25 years. Her latest DVD is "Just Walk: Belly Blasting Walk"

"I owned a fitness center in the 1980s, and I wanted to get the walkers to come inside," she said. "So we started walk aerobics. It struck a nerve. "

Sansone said where you walk changes the fitness experience.

"If you're outdoors walking in the wind and up and down curves and hills, you're going to react in a different way than if you're on a treadmill, where you can pump up the pace," she said. Indoors, Sansone uses music to set the pace.

"If they keep a pace, it doesn't matter what the movement is, they're going to gain fitness," she said, adding that she would rather see people increase intensity than time.

"It's that hurry-up pace that gets you around the 15-minute mile," Sansone said. "That's the cardio goal for health and weight loss."

Sansone said most of her clients are women, but lately more men and teenagers are picking up the pace.

These days, Aviance practically dances his route, regularly pausing for a set of push-ups in the park and encouraging onlookers to follow his footsteps.

"I've got about five kids that I've helped," said Aviance, who has become a neighborhood advocate for health and wellness. "And all people I see on street who ask me what I'm up to." (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Todd Eastham)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130218/musician-takes-los-angeles-streets-drop-pounds-get-fit