Get on the move

Journey to health begins with two small steps

Journey to health begins with two small steps

September 22, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Picking up your lunch? Order a small- or medium-sized drink instead of a large drink, a Big Gulp or even an Extreme Gulp.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a root beer float made with a scoop of low-sugar vanilla ice cream and zero-calorie root beer.

Park all the way in the back of the lot at Wal-Mart rather than trying to find a spot close to the doors.

Take a scenic walk with your camera.

Almost everybody thinks they need to get more exercise and eat better, but, with busy schedules, it often doesn't get done.


The Washington County Nutrition and Physical Activity Partnership hopes to help make these things easier for people by adopting the YMCA's America On the Move program and educating people about just how simple it is to eat smarter or add a little exercise to their day.

Simple steps to better health

The goal is to try to get people to increase their activity by 2,000 steps and eat 100 fewer calories a day, said Sharee O'Haver, member services director with the Hagerstown YMCA. People don't have to literally take 2,000 more steps, she said; they could do an activity equivalent to that.

Exercise helps reduce blood pressure, control cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and helps with depression, said Tammy Thornton, registered dietitian for the Washington County Health Department. Just getting up and moving reduces stress and improves mental health, she said.

O'Haver said it also helps address obesity concerns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 31.7 percent of adults in Washington County in 2007 were obese compared with 26.3 percent in Maryland. The CDC defines obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. A person's BMI is calculated using their height and weight. (Mayo Clinic offers an online BMI calculator at

"This is an opportunity for people to see that it's not a complicated effort to become a little more active in your daily routines by making small changes," O'Haver said.

The YMCA started America on the Move a few years ago, designating a week in September to get Y members and community members to tackle these goals and report their progress to their local YMCA, O'Haver said.

Make a lifestyle change

Nationally, YMCA is holding that week from Saturday, Sept. 20, to Saturday, Sept. 27, this year, the Washington County partnership wants people to think about it more often.

The partnership is a coalition of community organizations dedicated to reducing obesity and obesity-related diseases in Washington County. The partnership has created a Nutrition & Wellness Community Resource Manual that lists contact information for a variety of health, nutrition and exercise programs and resources. Go to and scroll down to Nutrition & Wellness Community Resource Manual.

The partnership is helping the Y kick off America On the Move this week to a broader audience, e-mailing information about the effort to approximately 100 businesses with which the partnership has a connection, Thornton said.

The journey begins with two steps

Participants, and the public at large, can find 100 ways for taking 2,000 more steps daily and 100 ways for reducing daily caloric intake by 100 calories; go to and click on the link for America On the Move. There also is an activity conversion chart that converts other activities to steps. For example, bowling for one minute is the equivalent of 84 steps for a woman and 78 for a man, whereas jumping rope slowly for one minute is the equivalent of 225 steps for a woman and 208 for a man.

Click on the hypertext for "America On the Move," and you can then download lists of exercises and food options to help you meet the goal.

Log in with the 2619 code for the Hagerstown YMCA, and you can register for free and track your progress. This also allows the Hagerstown YMCA to see how many local people are participating and what the total progress is for the group.

In January, the Washington County partnership will kick off a six-week challenge similar to the America On the Move program. The partnership might also offer nutrition classes, Thornton said. Partnership officials haven't finalized any plans for the January program at this point, beyond restarting the America On the Move program for six weeks.

The partnership will also use the America On the Move Web site to track local participants' progress.

Partnership officials hope the September week will get people to look back and realize how active or inactive they are and what little is required to improve exercise and nutrition, Thornton said.

If they're not self-motivated at that point to continue taking small steps toward healthier living, then the January program will can help them get back to it, Thornton said.

In addition to following the often gluttonous holidays, January is when people are making new year's resolutions.

Hopefully, that will get people to join in the communitywide program, Thornton said.

Step by step

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