Thursday, July 17, 2003

Step By step


Armed with pedometers, Tristate residents are making strides toward fitness

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Western & Southern lunchtime walkers (from left): Debbie Sullivan, Crystal Powell, Erin Cernak, Dean Schouloukas, Linda Reed, Bonita Martin.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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This summer, Shiloh Turner and her teammates are walking from Juneau to San Diego.

John Peters credits his dog with helping him get his steps in every day.

And more than 300 employees at Western & Southern Financial Group downtown devote their lunch hours to putting one foot in front of the other in a quest for better health.

Forget the BlackBerry and flip-flops: Tristaters' must-have accessories this summer are a pedometer and a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

Pedometers are everywhere. Consumers can register with America on the Move, a national fitness initiative, as it kicks off today. The goal of AOTM is to encourage Americans to increase their physical activity by at least 2,000 steps - roughly a mile - a day. Registration is free, but pedometers start at $18.95. Visit Web site for information.

And more than 5,000 people have already signed up for CincinnatiWalks, a local program geared toward getting Tristaters to take 10,000 steps a day - the equivalent of about 5 miles a day. Registration is $25, and includes a pedometer, a logbook and motivational mailings. Visit Web site for information.

[IMAGE] America on the Move co-founder John Peters walks with son Jeff and dog Jake.
(Leigh Patton photo)
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Peters, a co-founder of "America on the Move" and director of the Nutrition Science Institute within Procter & Gamble's Food and Beverage Technology Division, says walking programs are a step in the right direction toward curing America's obesity epidemic.

"Small changes can lead to big effects. We're giving people a way of starting the transformational process of eating better and exercising more," says Peters, who lives in West Chester.

Turner, the director of Health Data Improvement for the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, loves her CincinnatiWalks pedometer so much that she even wears it on weekends.

She and her colleagues at the foundation engage in a little friendly competition over who can log more steps every week. "Some of these people are just crazy walkers. They walk 100,000 steps a week," Turner says.

She averages 60,000 to 65,000 steps during a five-day work week.

To keep people motivated, walkers at the foundation have formed teams and scheduled "virtual walks" every season, figuring the number of steps it takes to get from Point A to Point B. All of the participants pool their steps to reach the final destination.

This summer, they're "walking" from Juneau to San Diego, with stops in Vancouver and San Francisco. At each stop, the office will stage a celebration. For their virtual visit to Vancouver, walkers will hold a stargazing festival.

Nancy Apfel of Kenwood keeps one eye on the sidewalk and one eye on her pedometer as she logs her 10,000 steps daily.

She signed up for CincinnatiWalks last spring.

"I started out doing 2,000 steps a day, just around the house," Apfel says. "I'd watch the numbers turn and think, I want to walk more. I want to walk more."

Now she walks around the neighborhood daily - or at Kenwood Towne Centre in bad weather - to hit the 10,000 step mark.

"If you go to the grocery, you can get lots of steps in that way," Apfel says.

She loves her pedometer.

"I can't tell you what a motivator it is," she says. "I just like wearing it and looking at it. If I do nothing else during the day, then I know at least I walked my 10,000 steps."

'It's not about the pedometer'

More than 5,000 people have signed up for CincinnatiWalks pedometers since the program launched in October 2000, says Lauren Niemes, executive director of the Nutrition Council of Greater Cincinnati.

"We've got individuals and work sites, schools, churches and neighborhood groups," she says. "And we've got all these little cheerleaders all over the place."

Apfel is good at recruiting friends and neighbors for the program. She's already signed up one neighbor and she plans to fetch pedometers for two more people this week.

Cinergy and Argosy Casino are the most recent additions to the list of CincinnatiWalks partners.

America on the Move, which started in Colorado, hopes to sign up 1 million Americans, Peters says.

Walking 2,000 steps burns about 100 calories - which is all most Americans have to trim daily to make the difference between maintaining and gaining weight.

"That's really not much, when you think about how little 100 calories is in terms of your total diet or your total physical activity," Peters says.

Obesity is considered the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., right behind smoking.

Mary M. Tholking, a registered dietitian at the UC Physicians Weight Management Program, encourages clients to use a pedometer. She likes CincinnatiWalks' pedometers, she says, because they're "easy to use."

"The first week, I encourage them to check their average baseline with the pedometer, and after that I encourage them to increase by 200 to 500 steps every week, on average," Tholking says. "People are excited about it. They start wondering, 'Why did I get 8,000 or 10,000 steps one day and only 2,000 another day?' It gets them thinking about doing more."

A pedometer won't help cure obesity, Peters points out. But taking enough steps to give the pedometer something to count will.

"This isn't about the pedometer. A pedometer is a tool to get people in touch with their physical activity levels. America on the Move is about making small changes and the pedometer tells people what more activity feels like," he says.

CincinnatiWalks and other pedometer programs want participants to focus on getting 10,000 total steps a day.

"We did focus groups with our Cincinnati partners and people like the 10,000 goal better," Niemes says. "It gives them something to strive for."

Peters says his organization's focus groups thought 10,000 steps was too hard - but an additional 2,000 steps was a great goal for beginning exercisers.

"We want people to start at 2,000 and once you're there, keep going up," he says. "We embrace the notion that more is better."

Dogs add to motivation

Dogs are a great way to rack up extra steps.

Peters takes his yellow Lab, Jake, for a walk every night when he gets home from work.

Cindy and Russell Crosthwaite take their two Yorkies, Brutus and Penelope, with them as they walk every night.

Brutus likes the workout, Cindy Crosthwaite says. "Penelope's more of a rider."

Crosthwaite is the occupational nurse at Western & Southern, and one of more than 300 employees at the firm who participate in CincinnatiWalks.

"It's a great way to get out and get moving, and it gives you an easy way to keep track of your progress," she says.

Crosthwaite and Peters both get at least 10,000 steps every day.

Jake makes meeting his goal much easier, Peters says. And there's a bonus.

"Have you noticed how much pets look like their owners? There's a lot of pets out there that could use a few extra steps."

Wonderful walks

Love to walk, but need some new routes?

Just starting to take walks but need some inspiration?

On Thursdays, starting next week, the Enquirer will outline a favorite Tristate walk. We'll cover the walk's length, intensity, sights and sounds.

Next Thursday: Glenwood Gardens, a peaceful "just for walkers" park in Woodlawn.

Daily steps

Here are some step equivalents for everyday activities:

A mile equals 2,000 to 2,500 steps.

10,000 steps are equal to 4 to 5 miles.

Nine holes of golf (minus the cart) equals about 8,000 steps.

A city block is about 200 steps.

A 90-minute soccer game requires 8,000 to 10,000 steps.

The average person walks about 1,200 steps in 10 minutes.

Source: America on the Move

Add challenges

Increase your speed. You can do this either through interval or tempo training. Both will increase your speed, stamina, strength and calorie burn. Interval training involves timed bursts of speed, usually for one to five minutes, followed by timed recovery periods of one to five minutes.

Head for the hills. There's nothing like a good incline to tone your thighs and glutes, but use good form to get the most from your efforts. Shorten your stride, quicken your step and tighten your abdominal muscles as you tackle each hill.

Try race-walking. Although it may feel awkward at first, you'll find it to be efficient and graceful once you master it. First, your knee should be straight when your foot makes contact with the ground and must remain straight until your body passes over it. Second, one foot must always be in contact with the ground.

Information

Want to know more about CincinnatiWalks or America on the Move?

Call 621-3262 or visit www.nutritioncouncil.org for information on CincinnatiWalks.

Visit www.americaonthemove.org for information on America on the Move.

Step it up

Some ideas to increase your daily step tally:

Walk your dog, or offer to walk a neighbor's dog.

Walk while the kids play sports (or rollerblade or ride their bikes).

Start a walking club with friends or neighbors.

Get up and walk to the TV to change the channel.

Park farther away from the door at the mall or supermarket.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

Walk - don't drive - for trips less than a mile.

Get off the bus one or two stops early and walk into the office.

Walk to a colleague's office instead of sending an e-mail.

Walk to a restroom or water fountain on a different floor.

Host brainstorming meetings "on the move."

Take a walk on your lunch hour.

E-mail pofarrell@enquirer.com




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