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Swamp walkers shed pounds

pedometer1BIG CYPRESS — After trying “so many times” to lose weight and get healthier, Sam Tommie said he’s on the right track now thanks to a pedometer walking challenge called Stomp the Swamp at the Big Cypress Reservation.

“What I always needed was support. Then the pedometer made it much more interesting,” Tommie said.

The contest, organized by the Big Cypress Wellness Center, had participants weigh in, measure body mass and then walk while wearing pedometers to keep track of every step.

Health educator Sarah Pinto said about 10 people participated in the six-week effort to lose pounds and gain healthy lifestyle habits. Bragging rights, certificates, fitness gear awards and a chance to win a vacation prize provided extra incentive.

Weekly meetings at the Mitchell Cypress Fitness Trail kept competitors on track – literally. Pinto said three laps around the path equals 1 mile. In the beginning walkers walked 1 mile. They added more laps as the weeks progressed.

A lunchtime wrap up party on March 12 at a gazebo in the exercise park featured a light spread of crisp fresh vegetables with dip, homemade meatball sandwiches, water and an awards ceremony.

“I didn’t care about the prizes. I challenged myself every week and I beat my own record,” said Tommie, who lost 8 pounds. For Tommie, taking home the Most Steps and Most Participation awards in the senior age group was just a cherry on top.

Other winners were: Vinson Osceola for most weight lost (10 pounds); Almira Billie for most steps walked among non-seniors (322,194 steps); and Katherine Billie for most participation among non-seniors (17 participation points out of 24).

Alvin Buster, a Fitness specialist for the Health Department at the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium, led stretches and workouts before and after walks. Participants recorded their daily diet and activity in booklets. Altogether, the group walked more than 3.5 million steps – or about 1,174 miles.

All reservations conducted similar pedometer walking events during the same six-week period but with different incentives and results.

Each reservation is also planning to host a spring health festival.

Health director Connie Whidden said all participants were allowed to keep the pedometers, if they intended to continue using the devices.

“They say (the pedometer) helps to motivate them. It reminds them to walk,” Whidden said. “This program is all about keeping us going and keeping us moving.”