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Pedometer fitness challenge bets on improved health

Pathways to Health01No one can say for sure how 101 Tribal members and employees who spend six weeks walking thousands of steps in a pedometer challenge could increase their odds in a poker game.

What is known: losing a few pounds, gaining muscle strength and improving heart rate is definitely in the cards through the Pathways Poker Run Pedometer Program.

“There’s nutrition, physical activity, getting together with other fitness-minded people and the poker gimmick,” said Hollywood nutritionist Lucy Bowers.

Here’s how it works. Participants who had already gone through physical screenings and overall fitness assessments received pedometers that were clipped near hips to record the amount of steps taken daily. The pedometer readings were to be recorded by the participants at the end of every day. Once weekly, walkers met at predetermined locations on respective reservations for a group walk and for program leaders to ledger steps.

Each walker who met a certain number of steps received a poker card. Adults ages 18 to 54 had to walk 40,000 steps weekly for a card. Seniors (55 and older) walked 28,000 steps to take a card. At the end of the six weeks, hands were to be compared to determine winners from each age group.

Some considered the poker walk win-win-win.

“It mixes work, fitness and fun. I would never be out here walking if not for the program,” said Tribal member Tacey Thomas.

Thomas was among 10 who turned out March 10 to snake through a 3-mile course at Seminole Estates. The former street scape, still dotted with mango, oak and palm trees, provided an airy and green break from the surrounding urban community.

“I don’t even care about counting steps when I walk out here,” said participant Wanda Bowers who strolled the course at her own leisurely pace, sometimes skipping certain streets, with her furry pooch Winston.

To each his own path – hence the Pathways Program.

Dedicated to health promotion and disease prevention, the Tribe’s Allied Health Program (one of eight programs under the Health Department) uses the Pathways Program as an umbrella delivery system for Allied Health’s main goals: provide health education and activities in schools, within the community, for the sick and to the Tribe’s employees.

But Allied Health Program manager Suzanne Davis said Pathways programs that include pedometer walks and other fitness challenges let participants play as they are able.

“Everyone is an individual, everyone has a special path. We ask them, ‘Where are you on your path to health?’ And then we work with that person right where they are to help them on the steps to where they want to be,” Davis said.

A person who is already fit may simply desire to maintain healthfulness, Davis said. Another may be recovering from a recent injury. One more could be in prevention mode against diabetes or other diseases.

“No matter where a person is on their road to good health, we are there with them,” Davis said.

Once involved, participants usually discover more avenues to healthier lives. Some ask for inoculations against disease, begin regular regimens at the gym, start eating healthier foods and forge new friendships.

The Pathways Program umbrella also covers the Tribe’s Rez Rally, 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge, Senior Fitness Challenge and preschool Get Fit days.

Brighton’s Pathways pedometer challenge featured about 30 participants. Many gathered as a group on Tuesdays at the Brighton Filed Office. In Immokalee, about 19 walkers met at the gym. Big Cypress’ challenge puts walkers on a scenic trek along the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki boardwalk – but not before packing a trail mix bag of free nuts, dried fruit, fiber filled flakes and fresh strawberries.

“The poker aspect puts a fun spin on pedometer walking. Everyone likes a chance to win something,” said Big Cypress health educator Jamie Diersing.Pathways to Health02

Prizes for best poker hands were kept secret on Big Cypress to add another gaming element.

For Sam Tommie, of Big Cypress, participation was just for fun. An environmental filmmaker and competitive runner, Tommie turned out for the Big Cypress weekly boardwalk meet up March 3 but he did not record his steps.

“I set my goal to walk 100 miles in two weeks but I ended up walking 110 miles – and that was just because I was hiking,” Tommie said.

In April 2013, Tommie won Most Steps and Most Participation awards in the Big Cypress Stomp the Swamp pedometer challenge. But Tommie was happier then with what he lost – 8 pounds.