- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Revised U.S. diet guidelines were issued Jan.12, and unsurprisingly the government recommended that Americans make time for 30 to 90 minutes of daily physical activity to maintain a healthy body weight.

We have been hearing this recommendation from a variety of sources for years, so this five-year update by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture is nothing new.

Out of the revision came 41 recommendations that also included other old news like eating more fruits, vegetables, beans and low-fat/nonfat dairy products.

I do not understand why a large number of Americans do not take care of their body. Many of us spend heavily in time and money to make sure our cars operate efficiently. Many of us spend heavily in time and money to make sure our homes look wonderful. But way too few focus on taking care of the only thing in life that you will have for the rest of your life — your body.

Don’t they realize how miserable life will get as they age? Don’t they have parents or older friends who suffer poor health, which in most cases came from neglecting their bodies?

Here are some personal facts: I eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell from time to time. I grew up drinking nearly a gallon of Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch every day. I still enjoy a Coke, Pepsi or Sprite now and then, and I certainly eat more than my share of chocolate. I even pour thick, rich chocolate milk on my cereal every morning.

And my body fat (7.6 percent) is among the lowest compared with other 40-and-over American males.

The reason is crystal clear: All through my life, I have burned as many calories as I consumed. It is that simple. It isn’t from dieting or depriving myself of foods I enjoy. It isn’t from some hyperactive metabolism or overactive thyroid.

I grew up as an active kid, always playing. And I have made a commitment to being active, actually have built my life around being active and schedule my day accordingly. It’s a choice, and I have made exercise a priority.

While some people choose to enjoy happy hour, I choose to be out running. While some people choose to go to the movies on a Sunday afternoon, I choose to run in a track meet or take a long bicycle ride. While some people choose to sit at home after work watching the tube, I choose to be in the weight room.

You know the saying, “We all have been given the same 24 hours in a day.” It is how you prioritize those hours that matters. All my life, I have been investing in my future by maintaining my fitness. God willing, I hope to be running track meets in my 80s and 90s while most of my contemporaries are sitting in wheelchairs and using walkers.

We all worry about Social Security and our 401(k)s and other retirement plans because we fear we will not have any money left when we get old. What good will that money be when you finally have free time if you are too decrepit to use it?

I don’t need the federal government to give me guidelines for a healthy life, nor do most Americans. It is mostly common sense and — as the great Greek physician Hippocrates once stressed — moderation.

And it is entirely an issue of choice.

The jinx — Sports Illustrated has its jinx, but and now so does The Washington Times Running Column.

Two weeks ago, I touted the Governor’s Bay Bridge 10K Run as a must-do event. Just eight days later, the Maryland Transportation Authority announced it was nixing this year’s Bay Bridge Walk and the 10K run, originally scheduled for May1 from Kent Island to Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.

“Holding a Bay Bridge Walk is an enormous undertaking,” Transportation Secretary and Authority chairman Robert L. Flanagan said in a statement. “Increased security in a post 9/11 world is driving up the cost, and the walk ties up the bridge for hours on a weekend in May when traffic demand is growing every year. As managers of the Bay Bridge, we need to be realistic about how to best stage the event and how often we can do it.”

Flanagan estimated the costs to hold the Walk at $250,000 until last year, when it soared to $400,000 because of extra security. The Walk, which first took place in 1975, has attracted 50,000 people a year, and the run before it in the morning has attracted 3,000.

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