Zane Yeager weighed 260 pounds when he played center for the Columbus East football team.
After graduating in 2011, he decided to try to lose weight. He started running, but could only go about a half-mile without stopping.
Two years later, Yeager ran his first half- and full marathons, and this year, he won a 50-mile ultra-marathon in Brown County.
“A lot of (getting in shape) kind of stemmed from more of an aesthetic purpose,” Yeager said. “I didn’t have a lot of self esteem. I didn’t really date anybody in high school. That was really a catalyst.”
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But while Yeager, who now lives in Bloomington, was successful in his quest to lose weight, many other area residents fall into obesity.
Only 28.9 percent of Bartholomew County residents and 20.8 percent of Jennings County residents are at a healthy weight, according to Columbus Regional Health’s 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment.
By contrast, more than two-thirds of Bartholomew County residents and nearly four in five Jennings County residents are considered overweight. The obesity rates are 32.9 percent for Bartholomew County and 47.3 percent for Jennings County.
Those numbers are slightly higher than the state and national averages.
People with a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 are considered at a normal weight. Those with a BMI of 25 or higher are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.
Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships and Healthy Communities/Columbus Regional Health, said Healthy Communities recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and acknowledges how difficult it can be to lose excess weight.
“Even those who are overweight can enjoy physical and mental health benefits from regular activity,” Morris said. “… Of course, if you’ve been inactive, you should make sure your health care provider supports any new activity regimen.”
Morris said doctors’ recommendations are for adults to get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and for children to get a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise each day.
Although overall numbers for this year’s Mill Race Marathon, half-marathon and 5K are down slightly from last year, Morris has seen an increase in activity from local residents since Columbus began hosting a marathon in 2013.
“Healthy Communities is pleased to see the number of local runners and walkers increase each year,” Morris said. “Races like the Mill Race Marathon are a great venue for folks of any age to participate in an activity that costs little other than the price of a good pair of shoes.”
Yeager agreed. It wasn’t until he started running with his mother Kathy Yeager that he found a purpose in running and realized he could be pretty good.
In May, Zane Yeager won the 50-mile Dances With Dirt ultra-marathon in Brown County State Park in 8 hours, 6 minutes, 53 seconds. He plans to do the Mill Race Half-Marathon in September and then tackle a 100-mile run later in the fall.
“(Running) doesn’t require a lot of equipment,” Yeager said. “It doesn’t require a lot of hustling back and forth to a practice facility. It’s about having a relentless drive to push your body to the absolute limit, to try and find your perceived maximum effort.”
Percentages of healthy, overweight and obese Bartholomew and Jennings County residents and state and national averages, according to a 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment:
*-Overweight includes those who are obese