HEAL of Washington County launches 10,000 Steps program at Fairgrounds Park

August 10, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Dave Ruff, left, co-owner of Ruff Fitness in the Fountainhead Plaza Hagerstown and board member of HEAL of Washington County, lead Saturday's 10,000 Steps program kickoff at Hagerstown Fairgrounds Park.
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

It is an objective program.

You set a reasonable goal, you take the steps, and the pedometer doesn’t lie.

The 10,000 Steps program is a straightforward approach to realizing an active lifestyle, and it has caught the attention of about 30 people who signed up for it through HEAL of Washington County — or Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyles.

Dave Ruff, owner of Ruff Fitness Training Center and HEAL volunteer, developed the free eight-week program that kicked off at Fairgrounds Park Saturday morning.

“It’s very objective, because it measures the steps,” Ruff said. “There is no, ‘Did I do it or didn’t I do it?’”

HEAL Executive Director Jenny Fleming said the 10,000 Steps program — which is funded through a grant from United Way of Washington County — aligns with HEAL’s mission to prevent obesity.

The nonprofit agency was incorporated during 2012 in response to a strategic plan put forth by the Community Foundation of Washington County and the United Way of Washington County to decrease the obesity rate in children and adults by increasing physical activity and healthy eating.

Meritus Health’s 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment indicated 72 percent of Washington County adults are obese or overweight, according to previous reports in The Herald-Mail.

And the 2009 Maryland Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance survey showed 30 percent of low-income Washington County preschoolers, age 2-4 years old, were obese, the newspaper reported.

“Obesity is an issue in our community,” Fleming said. “We need to improve that.”

HEAL kicked off a weekly walking group called FitWalks at the park in March.

Fleming said 10,000 Steps builds on that concept with an added element of commitment.

“It is a concentrated effort and it tracks results,” she said. “But it is individualized, so the goals are not daunting, and more people are apt to join.”

Ruff said studies from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, determined that 10,000 steps  — or about five miles a day — is the point at which optimal health benefits and weight loss occur.

There are different versions of 10,000 Steps programs throughout the United States, but the general idea is to increase activity, he said.

Ruff said his specific program sets individual goals and combines daily activity with structured activity.

Participants received binders containing a program overview Saturday, as well as a pedometer to measure their steps throughout the week. Next Saturday, they will report their steps and establish goals based on those numbers.

“It measures everything you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed at night. Most people tend to overestimate what they do. This is cut and dry,” Ruff said.

Ruff said 2,500 steps a day “might be kind of average.”

Although all 30 participants might not achieve 10,000 steps a day after eight weeks, Ruff said he hopes participants will “at least double whatever they are doing.”

Increased activity will result in the participants feeling better, having more energy, losing weight and reducing risk factors for major diseases, he said.

Michelle Watts, 38, of Hagerstown is a stay-at-home mom who said she is always “chasing her kids around,” but has trouble finding time to exercise.

“I like that this is an organized program. The goal is 10,000 steps, but you start where you are at every day, so it’s just for me,” she said.

Jennifer Barrett, 45, of Hagerstown is participating in the program with her husband, Tim Barrett, who underwent gastric bypass surgery this year, as well as one of her daughters who recently stopped swimming regularly and needs to find another way to stay active.

“This will create a little competition within the family, seeing who can get the most steps,” she said.

Barrett’s youngest daughter, Sarah, 9, said she will act as “coach.”

Jen Marlatt, 46, of Hagerstown said she has been concerned about inactivity being a detriment to her health.

“This will help me be more accountable. And it seems doable. It’s not powerlifting,” Marlatt said. “It’s just about small steps to make yourself healthier.”

After the initial eight-week program, HEAL plans to continue offering additional 10,000 Steps programs throughout the year.

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