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Highlands Hospital diabetes group sponsoring fun events

The Highlands Hospital Diabetes Center continues to reach out to those with diabetes, those at risk for the chronic disease and their loved ones.

The center offers one one-day event on the Great Allegheny Passage, 10 weeks of dance lessons at the South Connellsville Volunteer Fire Department and 10 weeks of swimming at the Scottdale Community Pool. All events are free, but require registration.

Call the diabetes center at 724-628-8008 to register for any or all or for more information about the myriad services the center offers.

In addition to activities, the center's work includes classes, support groups and one-on-one assistance.

For the second year, the center will sponsor the Bike, Walk or Run for Fun event at Yough River Park and on the Great Allegheny Passage towards Dawson.

The morning of enjoyable fitness will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, followed by a free healthy lunch and information on fitness and on preventing and managing diabetes.

Those who pre-register will receive a T-shirt. Some will be available Friday morning. Registration starts at 9 a.m. in the park. A nurse will take blood pressure and blood glucose readings of diabetics before and after the noncompetitive event.

Kelly Loomis, diabetes educator with the center, said participants should go no farther than five miles, "so they get back in time for lunch." At each mile marker, riders, walkers and runners will receive an additional chance to win one of three grand prizes to be given away: two Trek bicycles and a free one-year membership to the John P. Murtha Wellness Center at Highlands Hospital. As well as giving away chances, those on the trail will provide aid such as glucose for any participants who need assistance.

Participants who want to ride should bring their own bikes, but a few will be available for use.

Loomis said between 200 and 250 people will likely attend.

Friday's forecast from the National Weather Service, Pittsburgh, predicts a beautiful day to spend time outside: 70 degrees under partly sunny skies.

The center will also continue a program begun last winter, Dancing with Diabetes.

Nearly 100 people with diabetes and their loved ones learned ballroom dancing and the fitness that comes from movement. This fall, dancers will learn the waltz and the West Coast swing.

Lessons will be held for 10 Wednesdays at 6 p.m. beginning Sept. 15 at the South Connellsville VFD Social Hall on South Pittsburgh Street in the borough.

The first five weeks will focus on the waltz and the second five will be dedicated to the West Coast swing, which diabetes educator Pat McKissock Gittinger compared to a toned-down jitterbug. Participants do not have to have a partner.

Finally, diabetics and those at risk for the disease may take advantage of exercising in water, especially helpful for those with joint problems, at the Scottdale Community Pool.

Swimming will be held for 10 Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. beginning Sept. 23. The pool is at 106 Rear Spring St., Scottdale.

These innovative programs stress that exercise does not have to be a grueling ordeal or limited to a gym. Virtually any physical activity that raises heart rate and takes place regularly can help build muscle, burn fat and control diabetes. "People forget that when they were little, they loved physical activity. It's natural," Gittinger said.

Adults may need a little encouragement to play, and the diabetes center continues to expand its fun activities.

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