Hiking for the health of it

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— With the burgeoning popularity of low-fat, low-cal diets, Dr. Atkins' low-carb theory and several commercial weight-loss programs, Americans seem to be obsessed with shedding those extra pounds for the summer.

But with help from the Health Promotion Institute in Germany and the Sabbath Rest Advent Church in Hayden, people have an alternative option for loosing weight, gaining muscle, improving the digestive system and ridding themselves of the daily headaches.

Hayden resident Carolyn Roitsch said changing the name to read 'Hiking & Health,' versus the former 'Fasting & Hiking,' hopefully will encourage more people to attend the four-day hike in Steamboat, which includes only the bare essentials.

"People got a little scared of the word 'fast,'" Roitsch said.

Beginning the day with a fresh, organic piece of fruit, snacking on vegetable broth for lunch and enjoying a freshly pressed juice for dinner would have most people heading home to scarf down a five-course meal.

However, Roitsch said most people forget that they're hungry because of the natural beauty that surrounds them.

"You can't believe how people can do that with just broth and juice," Roitsch said. "People are amazed what they can do with very little. This is new to America."

Roitsch said people who participate in the nondenominational hike might experience physical, mental or spiritual change and enlightenment, like she did.

Last year, when a group of six hiked at the Winding River Ranch at the west entrance of Estes Park, Roitsch said the natural endorphins built up during the excursion gave her enough energy to continue each day.

"You get endorphins from the trees. And if you walk by a tree and a river, you get double the endorphins. The negative ions make you feel very good," Roitsch said. "The Japanese have proven this."

Roitsch said the endorphin theory has helped her feel relaxed and refreshed in order to continue through life's obstacles.

"It leaves you with a very clean mind and a clean body and you'll make better decisions," Roitsch said.

Making a drastic change in life takes will power and determination, but Roitsch said her hiking program would help guide participants along the way.

An immediate partial fast can be strenuous on the body, so the German Health Promotion Institute has gathered a medical program in order to prepare participants. Also, a medical nurse will be available on the hikes in case of an emergency.

The program recommends a two-week preparation that includes: elimination of all flesh foods from the diet in the first week, elimination of all animal products (milk, eggs, cheese) in the second week, elimination of all foods except a minimal amount of easily digestible liquids in the third week (the week of fasting).

Roitsch also mentioned a program to assist hikers to get back to eating after the partial fasting period.

The hiking and fasting program began in 1998 when a German doctor, Joachim Schwarz, participated in the on-going program in his native country. When the doctor traveled through Colorado on a family vacation, he and Roitsch, both members of the international church, decided the Rocky Mountains were favorable for this cleansing program.

Now, in its third year, Roitsch said she would like to make trips this summer to Mad Creek, Fish Creek Falls, and Spring Creek.

"We try to set this up for local people to get away, to make it the best experience they can," Roitsch said. "This is our way of trying to awaken people to their need of health. Everyone's looking for how to make some changes."

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