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Unhealthy Nebraska: To get healthy, start small and get creative

Unhealthy Nebraska: To get healthy, start small and get creative


Cody Raile, a certified personal trainer, says the best way to exercise is to find something you enjoy doing.

Benefits accrue whenever you get your heart rate elevated, he says.

Raile, who owns Feel Fit health and fitness club in Grand Island, likes to jump on a small trampoline at home for 10 minutes. Playing with your dog can also give you a workout.

In finding exercise, he says, people should be creative. Involving friends and family in an activity is a good way. Splashing around a swimming pool is another way to get a workout. Many people like to dance around the house.


Obesity is a major problem in Nebraska, the Midwest and the rest of the nation. The U.S. life expectancy for females is 81.65 years, and for males 76.61.

People who are overweight run an increased risk of many serious diseases and health conditions, including high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

Short workouts work

In tackling weight loss, Raile and registered dietitian Salena Hirschbrunner both feel that people should start small.

People are discouraged when they hear that if they don’t exercise 30 minutes a day, it’s not even worth it, Hirschbrunner said.

But the latest recommendation is that the 30 minutes don’t have to be all at one time, Hirschbrunner said. It might be split into three 10-minute sessions, for instance.

In working with people, Raile starts “really small,” going for five or eight minutes. That’s a lot different than an hour.

“But it’s a great recipe and it oddly builds on itself,” Raile said.

Sooner or later, 10 minutes of exercise is going to turn into 15 minutes or more, Hirschbrunner said.

One healthy choice a day

The goal of one healthy choice each day also applies to food.

For instance, people might choose a salad over french fries, Hirschbrunner said.

One change “ends up snowballing into more healthy changes,” she said.

Hirschbrunner, who lives in Lincoln, works for EZ Nutrition, which has a contract with Grand Island Regional Medical Center.

People often say that healthy foods don’t taste great.

But Hirschbrunner begs to differ. She loves apples, which she usually enjoys by themselves. But apples are also a great snack with string cheese or a tablespoon of peanut butter, she says.

For breakfast, Hirschbrunner likes oatmeal, which can be enjoyed with dried fruits or nuts.

For lunch or dinner, skinless chicken breasts can be prepared in many ways “that are really flavorful and very healthy for you.”

She likes to marinate chicken breasts in Italian dressing and then grill them on a pellet grill smoker.

Moderation is key

Hirschbrunner believes in moderation.

It’s OK to have something high in calories once a while. But for the most part, people should choose foods that have lower calories, are higher in fiber and more nutrients in them.

To get healthy, people should look at themselves and see what needs to be improved upon, said Chelsey Kennedy, who is a women’s health nurse practitioner at CHI Health St. Francis Family and Behavioral Medicine.

In addition to physical concerns, the road to good health includes social and psychological pieces.

To improve themselves, people should pick one or two things. “Maybe it’s my diet. Maybe it’s my nutrition. Maybe it’s my mental or social health,” Kennedy said.

Many times people lose weight but don’t keep it off.

Those people probably didn’t create the better habits needed to keep the weight off, Kennedy said. They have to remember how and why they got there “and how can I stay there? Instead of just losing the weight, we’ve got to figure out the whole other side of things.”

People in the Midwest might be heavier because “we’re very social and we like gatherings,” Kennedy said. Parties and celebrations often revolve around food. Sugary drinks and alcohol at those gatherings can undercut people’s desire to eat healthy.

People need to focus on foods that are dense in nutrients and stay away from processed foods, which have more calories than we realize, Kennedy said. Processed foods bring extra fat, sugars and starches.

In addition to green, leafy vegetables, people shouldn’t forget red and orange produce, she said.

Instead of drinking just the juice, it’s better to let our bodies do the digesting and processing, and enjoy the benefits of all the nutrients.

It’s better to consume a fruit than putting it into a processor “and having the machine do the work for you,” she said. By letting our bodies do the digesting and processing, we receive the benefits of all the nutrients.

Rotate your exercise

Raile said it’s helpful for people to rotate their forms of exercise. It’s good to “keep your body guessing” every couple of months and change up your regime. Doing different exercises makes your routine enjoyable and helps your body progress, he said.

Hirschbrunner recommends YouTube videos that might involve yoga, strength and conditioning, and cardio workouts.

People can exercise along with those videos at no charge. It’s a good way to get exercise when winter weather and COVID are keeping us inside.

Those videos are a good way “to stay active even though I’m not going to the gym right now,” she said.

Keep track

Raile and Kennedy are believers in recording what you’ve done.

If you’re not keeping track of what you’re eating or how much your exercising, it’s going to be easy to fall behind, and you’ll “see your numbers going in the wrong direction,” Kennedy said.

Raile thinks people should write down what type of exercise they’ve done and how they felt. A guy might write that he danced with his wife for 10 minutes in the living room and it left him feeling great, although his right knee was hurting.

Notes like those give people something to look back on, and build on.

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