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Getting more Arizonans moving to improve physical, mental health

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Arizona News Connection) Almost one in four Arizona adults report getting no physical activity or exercise other than on their jobs.

An event in Phoenix this Saturday, the American Heart Association's annual Phoenix Heart Walk, aims to get more people off the couch and moving.

Studies have found people who sit for eight hours or more have up to seven times higher risk of stroke than those who are more physically active.

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Alisha Ward is the mother to four-year-old Jaxon, a congenital heart defect survivor. They will be at the Heart Walk and Ward said such events help raise awareness and cultivate a sense of community.

"The heart does not just affect one thing, it affects many," Ward pointed out. "Whether you're young or old, same advice: Listen to your body, get checked out and really reach out and find your kind of people that can support you, and your people that can help you through these types of situations."

Ward noted her family gets outside once or twice a day, which not only helps improve stamina but their overall mood. She explained to her son, getting outside is an opportunity, not a chore, and she encourages other Arizonans to take the same approach.

Saturday's Heart Walk is at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix and begins at 9 a.m.

Mike Gonzalez, this year's chair of the Phoenix Heart Walk, said it is easy to get a daily walk or exercise now with the pleasant weather but people have to get creative as summer approaches. It may mean walking in a shopping mall for the cool air conditioning. He also wants people to listen to their bodies and know their family health history. Gonzalez took action when he noticed shortness of breath and then, a heart flutter.

"And then it was, 'Hey I feel a little dizzy,' and all of those things added up," Gonzalez recounted. "It was really just being an advocate for myself, and going to the doctor and saying, 'Something's not right. I'm having these symptoms, let's do some more digging.' And that was what it took."

Gonzalez added many people associate heart disease with heart attack and stroke but do not necessarily think about other factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes, which he called "contributors," affecting overall heart health.