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Winter is tough
The Back Forty
By Roger Pond

Itís tough whether you live in frosty New England or sunny Florida. Winter gets us down because most of us donít get enough daylight or adequate exercise this time of year.

I think we should remember that humans evolved by hunting, fishing, and gathering from daylight to dark. That means our distant ancestors got eight hours of sleep during the summer and 12 hours of bedtime during the winter.

Thereís the problem, it seems to me. Electric lights and television have turned us into a bunch of night owls.

Scientists say the shorter days of winter affect the pituitary glands of animals, causing bears to hibernate, chickens to lay fewer eggs, and people to become grouchy. Only recently, however, has science recognized that people will become grouchy anytime their chickens quit laying eggs.

The relationship between shorter days, fewer eggs, and grouchy people was well known when I was a kid. Kids fed the chickens in those days, and winter always meant fewer eggs and grouchy people; especially when they found out you didnít take time to thaw the waterers.

Even the old excuse, ďItís a darn poor chicken that canít break through a couple of inches of ice,Ē couldnít get us off the hook in that situation.

In addition to shorter days and fewer eggs, I think exercise plays a role in how a person feels during the winter. Itís doubtful that scientists will back me up on this - because I just made the whole thing up, but it makes sense to me. If a person doesnít get enough exercise his pituitary gland regresses, and he becomes grouchy.

Everyone has a favorite way to exercise during bad weather. Dragging hay bales across a muddy barnlot remains one of my favorites. Nobody ever got fat dragging hay bales through the mud and snow. The fat guys sink down and disappear.

These activities arenít available to everyone, of course. A fellow dragging a hay bale gets some nasty looks on suburban sidewalks, so he has to take up something more respectable like jogging. (Even jogging works better if you do it in the mud.)

The trend in modern exercise is to buy a workout video to help us keep in shape during bad weather. Thereís something about buying an exercise tape, plugging it into the VCR and watching other people sweat that makes a person feel good regardless of whatís going on outside.

Iíve always scoffed at workout tapes that were made by people like Richard Simmons. Richard always gives me the feeling he wouldnít drag a bale of hay if his life and 40 cows depended on it.

Trainers say the main thing to remember when starting an exercise program is to set realistic goals. Donít expect to create muscle or lose weight all at once, especially if you donít do the exercises. Workout enthusiasts say losing weight is not a good objective, anyway. Improving muscle tone is a better goal. Thereís no way to measure that.

This farm news was published in the Jan. 3, 2007 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

1/3/2007