Residents take step in healthy direction

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Reporting on its 10,000 Steps fitness program, Central Peninsula General Hospital's program coordinator told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that 71 percent of the people who signed up for the program last month were above normal weight.

The program, which targets reducing the number of people over age 18 who are physically inactive, received an overwhelming 125 registrants Sept. 18, according to Jill Rife, registered nurse and acting coordinator of the hospital's cardiovascular health and rehab department.

Rife said the hospital will open registration for the program again next month, although a date has not been set.

The fitness program encourages participants to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent of about five miles, Rife said.

By increasing physical activity, people can reduce their risk of heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer, she said.

When the hospital conducted its initial registration, 84 percent of those signing up were women and 16 percent men.

At the time of registration, 29 percent of the people were in their normal weight range, 29 percent were overweight and 42 percent were considered obese.

Rife compared those Kenai Peninsula numbers to the state of Alaska, where 30 percent are overweight and 18 percent are obese.

"People who walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day are the most successful with weight loss," Rife said.

Other goals of the program are increasing the number of adults who regularly have their blood pressure checked and increasing the number of those who eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

CPGH kicked off its program in September with a three-mile hike in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and Rife said she plans additional group walks in the spring.

Of those who registered in September, Rife said 35 percent engage in more than 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week. That figure compared to 25 percent statewide.

She also said that while 24 percent of adults in Alaska age 18 or over are physically inactive, only 17 percent of the peninsula registrants were in that category.

Rife told the Soldotna business people that McDonald's restaurants were beginning to include pedometers in adult happy meals, and said that program would reach Alaska by May.

Pedometers are devices worn on the belt that measure the number of steps people take in a set period of time.

She added that the step counters do not measure activity of bicyclists and said the devices are not waterproof, so they don't work for swimmers either.

Rife left the business lunch with a prescription for better health: "Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week."

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