Taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle
Jill Clark knows that taking little steps can make a big difference in improving one's health.
Clark and her husband quit a long-time smoking habit two years ago.
But even that decision was just an initial step. It didn't translate into great health.
When her employer, Domain Inc. in New Richmond, hosted a Health Risk Assessment through their insurance provider in early 2010, the 59-year-old's test score showed she needed to make even more changes to her lifestyle or face declining health.
Clark then had a physical and the doctor told her that her triglyceride levels were extremely high. Triglycerides are an indicator of the fat content in a person's blood stream.
"She told me I had a year to change my numbers or I'd have to go on medication," she said. "I just didn't want to take a pill if I didn't have to."
Clark said she was finally motivated to do what was necessary to improve her health outlook.
"I really took notice. It prompted me to make some changes," said Clark, a human resources employee at Domain. "I started making different food choices."
After six months of eating better, a second blood test proved that Clark's triglyceride levels were decreasing significantly.
On top of eating more fruits and vegetables, and cutting down on fatty foods and unhealthy snacks, Clark became more active. She participated in a walking challenge at her workplace, using a pedometer to help her achieve a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day.
To add to her daily steps, Clark explained, she would park in the back of store parking lots so it would force her to walk more. She also walked a mile during her lunch breaks and a couple miles after work.
"I really got into the challenge," she said. "I had a lot of fun with it."
Clark also started to do some weight lifting and began taking fish oil.
Last month, after another blood test, Clark was ecstatic to find that her triglyceride levels were normal.
"The success just keeps me wanting to do more," she said. "I still have a long way to go, but I'm taking steps."
Clark is now in the market for a treadmill so she can continue to exercise in the wintertime.
"I'm a freeze baby, so I have to figure out something," she said of her effort to exercise indoors.
Looking back over the past couple years, Clark admits that her change in lifestyle wasn't too difficult because she was highly motivated.
"It was really pretty easy," she said. "I just made up my mind and started making better choices."
Clark said her husband Dick is a reluctant participant in the health kick at times, but he's been a good sport.
"I'm going to make him gravy for Thanksgiving," she said with a laugh. "That's a treat now."
Clark encouraged everyone to take steps to be healthier, saying that the hard part is starting.
"I just want to keep going," she said. "It's easy to sit down and do nothing. But I'm pumped up now and will keep working."
Taking more steps in a day can help a person better manage their weight, lessen their stress levels, increase their energy and decrease their chances for developing diseases.
Experts agree that 10,000 steps a day is a good goal.
How far is 10,000 steps? If the average person's stride length is approximately 2.5 feet long, that means 2,000 steps equals one mile for most people.
To reach 10,000 steps, a person has to essentially walk five miles.
According to research, a couch potato may only average 1,000 to 3,000 steps each day. The average American adult takes 3,000 to 5,000 steps each day, so getting up to 10,000 steps take a concerted effort for many.
Experts agree that people in poor physical condition should slowly ramp up their step total rather than rushing ahead too quickly. One suggestion is to add 500 steps to a person's total each week, gradually reaching the 10,000 step total.
There are many ways to increase a person's daily steps: park farther from church, work or the store; walk the dog; use the stairs instead of the elevator; get up from the chair to change the channel; walk around the neighborhood with your spouse or kids.