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updated: 3/3/2011 5:31 PM

'Fall into Fitness' - a free pass to better health

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Saying goodbye is always difficult, but it's also an opportunity to say hello to something new.

The bittersweet exchange is about to happen again as summer transitions into fall. The dog days are replaced by school days, and the annual Brett Favre soap opera signals the arrival of football season.

The changing seasons also alter routines. It was easy to stay active in the summer - running, hiking, swimming, cycling, walking everywhere and just being outside, generally.

But with shorter, colder days on the horizon, the fitness plan is going to need some tweaking.

With that in mind, the Fox Valley Park District is running a Fall into Fitness program that encourages residents to carry over their fitness and exercise goals into the new season.

Throughout the month of September, the park district is offering a free seven-day pass for first-time visitors age 16 and over to any one of its three fitness centers - the Vaughan Athletic Center, Eola Community Center and Prisco Community Center.

That's correct. If you're interested in a fitness club membership, Fall into Fitness is like a one-week test drive that allows you to not only kick the tires but try out all the equipment and facilities that are available, including group exercise classes.

It's all the benefits of being an annual pass holder. Of course, the park district would like you to stay around after the seven-day trial, and most do. There's something about working out and exercising that makes the mind and body feel so good.

"Endorphins give you that rush," the fitness staff explained. "When you hear people talk about a 'runner's high,' that's what they're referring to. Endorphins give you that energized, euphoric feeling."

I'd have to guess most people would take that over stress - any day. While it's tough for busy, working adults to find time and energy each day for exercise, leaving the gym with a glow makes it worth the small investment.

That good feeling goes far beyond just the post-workout rush. Regular exercise has innumerable benefits that contribute toward long-term health. Maintaining proper body weight and keeping the cardiovascular system well-tuned go a long way toward better living on a day-to-day basis.

As my favorite coach always proclaimed, "You feel good, you look good, no matter how you look."

Still a great point, coach. The goal of an exercise program isn't about bulging biceps and six-pack abs. It's about maintaining a personal level of fitness that leads to a healthier lifestyle.

An added bonus to staying active during the fall and winter months - when holidays are plentiful - is that there's less of a guilt complex if you happen to enjoy a few too many culinary treats. Hey, you'll work them off the next day!

All it takes is a little commitment. The Fall into Fitness offer provides the nudge. Once you open the door, you'll return again and again. You and your body will be thankful you did.