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Don't let winter drive you to dormancy

Autumn officially begins this afternoon, signaling a need, at least for me, to hibernate.

Holing up in my house, eating whatever doesn't run away is an ideal fall and winter for me. Of course, that means by the time the new year rolls around I am quite vulnerable to weight-loss ads that promise to make my fat magically dissolve.

I know better. We all know better.

So, what's say we do something different this year?

Let's not hibernate and eat unceasingly. Let's move and be healthier for it.

I joined the 50 Million Pound Weight Loss Challenge again, which is being held at the William Wells Brown Community Center, 548 East Sixth Street. (For more information call (859) 389-6678.)

I first joined Jan. 20 along with more than 200 men and women. Those who stuck around until the program's end May 27 lost a respectable total of 135 pounds. Janet Burley lost 35 pounds, the most of all of us, and won a flat-screen TV.

Burley has continued to work out in the center's gym, which is free and open to the public and has treadmills, stationary bicycles, free weights and an elliptical machine.

So the rest of us have a lot of work to do to catch up.

Mark Johnson, assistant center director and health equity team leader for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said not only did participants lose weight, they lost inches. Some were taken off medications by their doctor.

"People who came last time made friends or renewed friendships," Johnson said. "That made it a community thing. When individuals thrive, the community thrives, and that makes it better for everyone else."

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the physical ailments associated with obesity — hypertension, heart disease and diabetes — will become a bigger drain on shrinking health care dollars than the diseases spawned by smoking. An estimated one-third of adults in the United States and 16 percent of children are overweight, and the numbers are not falling in any state.

We no longer walk to work or walk much at work. Our commutes, which are longer, are mostly via personal vehicles or mass transit. And when we do get back home, nearby parks and our neighborhoods might not be amenable to walking or jogging.

Combine that with bigger TVs and softer recliners, larger portions and our desire for fast food, and you get a nation that should never think hibernation is an option.

That's why Johnson said he'll continue encouraging us to get off our duffs.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 8, after Johnson teaches a low-impact aerobics class from 6 to 7 p.m., a variety of other group exercises such as line dancing, Pilates, Zumba, tai chi or walking will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. All the activities are free, but you need to fill out a registration form to use the facility.

"There will also be a hip-hop boot camp," Johnson said. "I don't know what this is."

Neither do I, but it sounds painful.

On Saturday, the health department and Lexington Parks and Recreation will also host a health fair at the center, featuring 27 exhibitors to help you get started on a new lifestyle. You can get your glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure checked.

Before the health fair, the Frankfort-Lexington Chapter of Links Inc. will host its 11th annual Walk-a-Thon at 9 a.m., featuring one-, two- and three-mile distances. The entry fee is $10, $8 for groups of eight or more, $6 for seniors. The money goes to the Sister-to-Sister Outreach Project, which focuses on making women more aware of breast and cervical cancer.

You see, this is a community thing. Everyone is trying to look out for us.

Now we just have to learn to look out for ourselves.

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