Good exercise can help us cut through the gloom

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Breadwinners are out of work, retirees are watching their nesteggs shrink and each day seems to bring more bad economic news.

There are plenty of challenges out there for all of us, but to be ready to meet them, we have to take care of ourselves.

Eat right, get enough sleep, and get some exercise.

We've heard it for years, but it's when we have to face life's biggest challenges that following that advice can make the most difference.

We don't know exactly what's motivating them, but the 87 participants in the Ed Thomas YMCA's "Biggest Loser" contest are on the right track.

Visit the Y early in the evening and you'll see exercise classes full, bikes and treadmills humming, and the weight room and pool busy.

According to the latest figures from Holdrege, McCook has a ways to go to catch up in the contest, but being an underdog is always a motivator.

The McCook YMCA's new online exercise bikes -- two conventional and one recumbent -- are popular, combining video gaming with Internet interaction to make exercise entertaining and effective.

But exercise pays off even if you can't go the high-tech route. The nice weather forecast for the next couple of days offers a chance to get outdoors and enjoy some real scenery, not imaginary trails on a video screen. Check out the new exercise stations on McCook's new walking trail while you're out it. Watch for a photo spread about using each of the new stations in an upcoming edition.

If you're not yet convinced, consider some of the benefits of exercise:

* Increased energy -- Exercise and nutrition generates hormones conducive to fat loss, increased muscle strength and extra energy.

* Better self-esteem -- You feel better and more confident when you gain control of your body size and weight through the self-discipline of exercise and good nutrition.

* Increased mental focus -- Exercise improves mental acuity into old age.

* Decreased risk of a heart attack -- Exercise lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.

* Decreased risk of osteoporosis -- Regular, weight-bearing exercise reduces or even reverses bone loss.

* Decreased risk of breast cancer -- Exercise reduces hormones linked to breast cancer.

* Reduces depression -- Exercise produces endorphins to improve mood.

* Decreased stress levels -- Exercising right after work is a great natural therapy and will help you sleep better.

And there are many others.

As we head into what can be the gloomiest part of the winter, getting that heart thumping will make spring that much closer and our problems that much smaller.

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