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Nebraska governor promotes exercise program to kick off 2022

Gov. Pete Ricketts hosted Nebraska Health Director Dr. Gary Anthone and Dave Mlnarik with the Nebraska Sports Council at a news conference Monday on fitness.
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 2:43 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts hosted a news conference Monday morning to promote fitness in the new year.

The governor was joined by Dr. Gary Anthone, director of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Dave Mlnarik, executive director of the Nebraska Sports Council, who talked about the council’s WellPower Movement.

The WellPower website offers users a free way to track fitness progress by logging miles that earn virtual badges to help users achieve goals and encourage dedication to improving fitness.

Dr. Anthone said a third of the state’s population is overweight — an increase of 7% in the past seven years. Only 15 states have obesity rates higher than Nebraska, he said.

The state’s health director also said that 25% of Nebraskans have reported doing no activity outside their daily job.

“The newest thing is obesity and COVID; obesity increases your risk of getting severe illness from COVID. It triples a person’s risk of being hospitalized due to being COVID positive,” he said Monday.

The DHHS chief medical officer said that more than 30% of COVID-19 hospitalizations during the pandemic were attributed to an overweight population.

“Omicron is more transmissible, so it’s a great opportunity to make sure you’re in shape to fight it off,” he said.

Dr. Anthone said adults should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise, like walking, each week.

“Even 20 minutes a day of walking is better than nothing,” Dr. Anthone said. “So move more, sit less, set achievable goals, and then watch your diet.”

He said experts also advise doing strength training, like lifting weights, at least twice weekly. The weights don’t need to be heavy, he said, just enough to keep muscle mass.

But Dr. Anthone emphasized that getting vaccinated is still the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Of course, the No. 1 way you can do that is by getting the vaccine. So I encourage people if you haven’t had the vaccine yet, the vaccine is our best line of defense against that COVID virus,” he said Monday.

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