Thanksgiving: It’s the time of the year when we reflect back on our year and verbalize the things we are grateful for. The small things and the big things.

Recently, two of my friends found out they have cancer. Both of them are women, one a few years younger and the other about my age. Both are in excellent physical shape, running marathons, doing yoga and lifting weights.

They have both spent their lives taking very good care of themselves. No smoking, eating right, being as fit as possible. But yet somehow they both have cancer. There is no rhyme or reason to cancer. One friend is terminal; the other is Stage 4 with no end prognosis as of yet.

One day, as I was teaching a fitness class, it hit me. How lucky am I, how lucky are we, to be able to do this?

I told my class that day that we all need to be thankful that we were just able to do what we did. We need to be thankful that when we ask our bodies to do these exercises, our bodies respond and are able to do all that was asked. Because some cannot.

So many times, people complain and whine when it comes to exercise. Some days we just don’t feel up to it. But think of my friends, and think of the people in your life who may be struggling with a terminal disease or who have had an accident. See their faces when you are feeling lazy or whiny. My guess is they would give anything to go for a run, or take a class, or just walk in their neighborhood.

It all comes down to your perspective on life. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The first wealth is health." Nothing has ever been as true.

So you want to know what really irks me? If your health is decent and you are physically able — but you do not take care of yourself.

If you are able-bodied and do not take care of your body, you are doing a huge disservice to yourself, your body and especially to the people who love you.

Are you able-bodied but don’t exercise? Why not? Are you going to wait until you have a major health disaster?

Sadly, that is what a lot of people do. We are all just one minute or one day from a major health scare or an accident. We never know what tomorrow will bring.

I am sure medical doctors see this a lot. No matter how hard they try to convince their patients that they need to exercise and eat right, many do not listen. And then it happens. That medical emergency that scares the patient into finally getting healthier.

But why does it take such an extreme wakeup call? We are all given the opportunity to use our bodies to do amazing things. We can push ourselves to the extreme, or we can challenge our bodies to do things we would never dream.

I have an 80-year-old woman in my spin class. I know there are days when she does not feel like coming to the YMCA. But she does, because she knows it will give her energy, make her joints feel better and clear her mind of the negative.

We should all be grateful if we can get up out of bed every day. Get started one day at a time, one step at a time.

If you do not know where to start then ask, research, find out from your fit friends. There are people who can help you. There are people who want to help you.

You can find something you really enjoy doing and then you will see what a lot of us already know. Exercise is CONTAGIOUS and ADDICTING!

I am super thankful for my exercise abilities and my fitness friends who bless my life daily. And I am thankful that at least for today, my body can still get up and go.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. "Fitness over 50" is published the third Sunday of each month.