Written by Brittany Vickers, editorial intern
Do you think you could burn a billion calories? You might need a little help–but the American Heart Association (AHA) has you covered.
With over 300 scheduled Heart Walks taking place in 2012, the AHA is determined to help Americans on the path to collectively burn more than one billion calories before 2020. The national campaign is called the Billion Calorie Count-UP, and leading the way alongside the AHA is Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch.
“As an athlete I know how important being fit is,” Finch told FITNESS in an exclusive interview during the official kick-off event. “I also know how much motivation it takes to stay fit!”
Now retired from softball, Finch has a new role as a mother of two boys. She has had to find different incentives to stay healthy and active since hanging up her mitt. “Working out used to be my job. Now it’s my priority,” she says.
The AHA aims to help Americans walk towards a healthier life. The president-elect of the AHA, Donna Arnett, shared some sad stats about America’s current fitness state.
“Heart disease is so preventable,” Arnett says. “If you make it to 50 years old and you have a normal blood sugar and cholesterol level your chance of heart disease is five percent. Only one percent of our population fits into that category.”
So the AHA has its sites set on improving America’s overall health and heart disease prevention by 20 percent by 2020! And it all starts with a simple 30-minute walk per day. It’s not always easy to get started, but as Jennie told us, when you have a team to work with it suddenly becomes much easier. After running her first marathon she raved about the success of a running group.
Having a finish line or goal to work toward, and someone to work toward it with, can create a level of fun to the challenge of being healthy. The AHA is organizing walking groups and community walking paths across the country for anyone who’s looking to join! Head to the website, heart.org, to find a heart walk, trail or group in your area.
Every 20 seconds, one child dies from consuming contaminated water. It’s easy to forget—with such easy access to bottled H2O and clean water flowing from the tap—that more than one billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. But the startling facts remain:
- Unclean water leads to more deaths each year than war and causes 80 percent of the world’s diseases
- Those in regions without clean water may need to walk as many as six miles each day to obtain the 40 to 80 pounds of water needed for their family
- All of this water-gathering time, which adds up to about 10 years of life, can’t be spent at work, school or caring for family
This weekend, Positive Community Impact (PCI) is hosting their fourth annual 5K Walk for Water in San Diego, California to help raise money for this important cause. Free on Sunday at 10 a.m.? Register to spend a bit of time walking in the footsteps of all of those in water-deprived regions—money from the student-run event supports important projects in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. (One PCI staff member traveled to Tanzania last year to help build a well for residents.)
If you can’t make it to the walk, here are five “steps” you can take today to start conserving water:
- Shorten your shower…Save 2.5 gallons/minute
- Wash only full loads of laundry…Save 15-50 gallons/load
- Replace your old toilet with a low-flow model…Save 2.2-3.8 gallons/flush
- Install flow-restricting aerators on faucets…Save 4.7 gallons/day
- Turn off the faucet while washing dishes or brushing teeth…Save 2.5 gallons/minute
Written by Brittany Vickers, editorial intern
Sometimes it’s just too easy to stay planted on the couch during that Real Housewives marathon—especially during the cold winter months. You know you should fit in at least a little activity for the day, but what will inspire you to get up and go? It’s different for everyone, but a sure-fire way to feel a connection to your active side is picking a cause to be fit for!
The perfect motivation this month can be found in the form of March for Babies, the March of Dimes walks which support research to help all women have healthy, full-term pregnancies. The 3-mile events start (appropriately) in March and continue into the summer, taking place at more than 900 locations across the country. Money raised for the cause funds research and programs that promote healthy youngsters from conception to toddlers.
Each year, March for Babies enlists an ambassador family to spread the word. For 2012, it’s the Witstrucks. Now a healthy 5 year old, Kieran Witstruck was born at 31 weeks and spent the first months of his life in the newborn intensive care. Mom Shalini says she never expected Kieran to be born preterm. “Being healthy and fit is very important to me,” she says. “When I found out I was pregnant I made sure to eat healthy and maintain a good level of fitness to stay healthy during my pregnancy.”
The Witstrucks still don’t know what caused Kieran’s birth to come so early. “Forty percent of preterm births are credited to unknown causes and we fall into that category. It’s one of the things March for Babies is trying to help doctors understand,” Shalini says.
Shalini and her husband Shane are both runners, and have finished many races together. But what sets the March for Babies apart from other races and walks is the super family-friendly mentality. “It’s a great thing to bring your kids to,” she says. “They get to be a part of something to help other children and reaching the finish line gives them a real sense of accomplishment.”
Recalling one of the previous Marches she and Kieran have walked in, Shalini tells us, “I’ll never forget, I met this wonderful woman. Her son and Kieran walked together and held hands the whole way. It’s a magical thing.”
Stay tuned tomorrow for five more active events around the country that are inspiring us to keep up with our training all year long.
We’re about three full weeks in to the new year—how are your healthy living resolutions going? The folks behind the Meatless Monday campaign, which aim to brand Mondays as healthy in a variety of ways, are determined to keep you health-focused and on track with your resolutions long past January.
Recent research has found that most people view Monday as a fresh start and often vow, on that day, to start a diet, join a gym or put out the cigarettes for good. Plus starting early is a kick in the pants to make healthier choices all week!
So at the start of each week, you can get a new Healthy Monday motivation tip that focuses on a different aspect of health, from tricks to add more variety to your diet to how to create a mood-boosting music playlist.
FITNESS editors are constantly updating our Pinterest page with ideas and inspiration too! Check out our 2012 Fitness Resolutions and Goals board to find out how to achieve anything from learning to surf to getting more comfortable in the kitchen.
Now tell us: How are you doing on your resolutions? Have they become a habit?
I immediately thought about Forrest Gump when I heard about 24-year-old Catherine Li, who’s walking her way from Daly City, California to New York City with nothing but a Google Map and shopping cart to hold her tent, sleeping bag and other essentials. But that’s not the real shocker in her story: Li is making this 3,000-mile trek not for charity or media exposure, but just because she felt like it.
You read that right. She’s not asking for donations or sponsorships or even Tweeting about her journey. (Though she does have a cell phone with her to let others know she’s safe.) “I just felt like walking,” Li explained to PhillyBurbs.com. “I just decided to click over to living in the actual moment instead of inventing all these fantastic fantasies for the future.”
Kudos to her for going on this adventure and we’re glad she’s stayed safe and received kindness from the people she’s come across. (And we hope a spa is nice enough to offer this lady a free foot massage as soon as she’s done!) While I don’t think I’ll ever make this cross-country trip on foot, Li’s story was just the nudge I needed to lace up my sneakers this evening not because I need to put in miles for a training plan or compete in a race, but just because.
Now tell us: What do you think about Li’s cross-country expedition? And when was the last time you went for a walk or run just for kicks?