Let's stop making excuses and get off our duffs.

    Do you want to do something for your country? Do you long to make a difference? Do you want to make life better for your children, or your nieces and nephews, or your grandchildren? Do you want to leave the world a better place than you found it? Do you want to make our society more functional?

    If you want to attain these high ideals, there is only one thing you need to do:
    Get off your duff and exercise.

    People who exercise for a mere one-half an hour per day dramatically reduce their risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue, arthritis, Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety and any number of other problems.

    The reductions in these problems by exercise is not small. By exercising one half-an-hour per day, you can reduce your chance of having the above problems as much as 40-50%.

    You don't have to run marathons. The exercise needed to dramatically reduce health problems is only one-half an hour per day of walking.

    That's it. All you have to do is walk.

    Why is exercise a service to your nation?

    Take a look at our recent problems. Medicare costs are running out of control. Health insurance rates are going up.

    What happens when health insurance rates go up? Employers cut benefits.

    What happens when employers cut benefits? Employees don't like it, as they shouldn't!

    The political turmoil in Wisconsin last year is directly attributable to health care costs. Gov.

Walker decided that since health care benefits won by the unions were getting prohibitively expensive, he would break the union in order to strip employees of their benefits and keep his state solvent.

    Locally, the labor dispute at Crystal Sugar is directly the result of increasing health care costs for employees. Benefits that once were taken for granted now are simply too big a cost for employers to ignore. Our nation's deficit is driven by many things, but the cost of health care is one of the biggest culprits.

    How can we reduce health care costs? Policy experts spend millions juggling numbers, policies and proposals.

    However, all the think-tank machinations would be moot if the people would merely get off their duff and exercise.

    If our entire nation got up once per day and walked a half-an-hour, health care costs would plummet. Studies have shown that half-an-hour is all it takes to achieve huge health benefits.
    So, why don't we exercise?

    Well, it is tough to change habits. It is tough to shut of the TV. It is tough to pull away from the computer screen. It is tough to get outside when you are used to a vegetative life.

    We make it worse on ourselves by idolizing people who are in impossibly good shape.

    We'll never be a running back for an NFL team, so why even try? We'll never pitch for the Twins, so why even try? We'll never turn a triple-axle in the Winter Olympics, so why bother?

    By setting impossible standards for ourselves, we cheat ourselves out of the benefits of simple walking. For me, the biggest barrier is the notion that I have to do more every day or I am not making progress.

    If I walk ten minutes today, I had better walk fifteen minutes tomorrow or I am not improving. If I don't improve, I had just as well quit.

    Nonsense. If you walk even five minutes, it is better than walking no minutes.

    If you walk an hour one day and a half-an-hour the next, it is not a defeat. The half-an-hour you walked is still better than not walking at all.

    Other countries are better about creating a culture of lifetime activity. In New Zealand, the seventy-plus ladies lawn bowling league gets the same headlines in the local sports section as the high school rugby team.

    "We may need to replace Mrs. Nelson, as she has been slumping of late," said the coach in one article I read by way of excusing the team's latest loss. We don't have to go that far.

    But we do need to stop thinking that the only people who need to be active in our community are our high school sports stars.

    Any activity at all will improve our health.

    If you need motivation to get out and walk, just do it for those you love. Do it for your country. Do it to reduce the deficit.

    Let's get off our duff and make the world a better place.