Letter to the Editor

If only the knees can take it

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I've still got stretch marks on my knees from a growth spurt in high school. I also remember sore knees from running on asphalt during cross country, which I went out for more for the chance to get fresh air and enjoy the scenery than any chance to reach the finish line first.

In fact, I remember a teammate who used to stop and rest until I caught up with him, and then run just fast enough to stay ahead of me.

But I did work hard enough to discover that there really is something called a "runner's high."

I kept it up, somewhat, recreationally at least, through college and on the job, but, inevitably the exercise fell off.

A knee injury on my first trip down the mountain on my first ski trip didn't help, either.

I've been hitting the YMCA more or less regularly for a few weeks, again, and wonder why I didn't keep it up all along. It's that old "runner's high" thing again, although a 3.6 on the treadmill hardly qualifies as running.

I didn't have any particular goals for starting to exercise again, although it is paying off, in better attitude, for one thing, as well as, yes, a few pounds dropping off.

I'm also giving the Atkins diet a try, and while my wife is supportive, checking out the requirements and buying the proper foods, that big pan of brownies she pulled out of the oven last night wasn't that helpful.

So, who cares about my athletic history? Nobody, really, but an e-mail from Kearney indicates that I'm not alone in neglecting my physique over the years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2001, approximately 58 percent of Nebraskan adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

And, it's getting worse, fast. In fact, from 1991 to 2003, the prevalence of obesity in Nebraska increased 37 percent.

Nebraska spends $454 million annually on obesity-attributable medical expenditures, according to a recent issue of Obesity Research, and the incidence of more than 30 weight-related, preventable illnesses has also increased, driving up healthcare costs and reducing workplace productivity.

This morning's e-mail was from "Nebraska on the Move," which claims endorsements by Sen. Ben Nelson and Rep. Tom Osborne.

NOM is an affiliate of America on the Move, an initiative launched in July 2003 to encourage Americans to walk an extra 2,000 steps a day and eat 100 fewer calories.

According to Dr. James Hill, AOM founder and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, those extra steps and fewer calories should be enough, for most Americans, to create a balance between energy expenditure and food consumption.

NOM plans a series of events, including participation in "Walk Out On Your Job," a national employee health and fitness day May 19, N-Lighten Nebraska, a five-month team wellness program encouraging weight loss and increased physical activity, Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day in October and more worksite wellness programs.

More information is available at www.americaonthemove.org/ne.

Ben Nelson says he's used a pedometer to keep track of his steps, and I intend to do my part in wearing out the YMCA's fitness equipment.

And, the price of gasoline makes walking all that much more attractive.

Now, if only my knees hold up.

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