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Heart Association’s Start! Walking challenge under way

By Staff | Oct 11, 2010

Lee County individuals began clocking the miles they walked last week for the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking six-week challenge.
The campaign, which began on Oct.4 and runs until Nov. 2, is a fitness initiative that challenges employees and local companies to participate in a workplace walking program. The program helps raise awareness of heart disease and stroke.
Southwest Florida American Heart Association Communica-tions Liaison Elizabeth Kellar said the challenge was locally introduced three years ago and it is typically held quarterly.
The workplace walking challenge, she said, attracts anywhere from 12 to 15 companies, with an average of five employees per company.
“Some of the area’s largest employers join the effort, such as Lee Memorial Health System and the Lee County Health Department,” Kellar said.
Cape Coral resident and lead organizer Bridgett Ashford, who works for Fowler White Boggs in Fort Myers, has participated in the American Heart Association Workplace Walking Challenge for three years with her fellow employees at the law firm.
The law firm has two teams of five individuals participating in the walk challenge. Everyone is responsible for tracking the miles they walk every day.
She said the program is based on taking the average amount of walkers and the average miles they walk, so a small group or a large group can participate and have an equal chance to win.
“Those who walk the most miles wins the trophy,” she said.
Ashford said she tries to walk two to four miles a day.
“I want to be around for my five grandchildren,” Ashford said. “Exercise works and it does make a difference.”
She said she wants to get involved with the challenge because it hits close to home due to her family’s heart history. Ashford said her mother passed away from a massive heart attack when she was in her 60s and her brother also suffered from a heart attack in his 50s.
She said she enjoys the team comradery and encouragement that everyone gives to one another during the challenge the most. She said it does not matter if an individual walks a minimum of 10 miles a week, the encouragement is still there.
Ashford said there has been a sense of team building over the past couple of years within the office, which has spread throughout the whole company. A group has been developed in the company to come up with ideas on how to make the company a fit friendly place.
“The firm is encouraging everyone to become heathier,” she said.
Since Fowler White Boggs became involved in the challenge, it has provided healthier food choices for breakfast, along with encouraging everyone to drink more water.
Ashford said she provides a choice of fruit and bagels for the employees so they have a better quality choice to choose from.
In addition to the six-week challenge, Ashford said the company has also included a weight loss challenge within their office.
Ashford said everything started to tie together as far as living her life better once she began participating in the challenge. She said she is making a commitment for everyone that is involved in her life to encourage them to be a little more fit friendly.
Although the program kicked off last week, Ashford encourages individuals to still sign up and start tracking their miles.
“It doesn’t have to be a corporate business, it can be a group of individuals,” she said, adding, “It can be a team of two or 100.”
The winning team will be announced on Dec. 1 at the Lee County Start! Heart Walk in downtown Fort Myers.
Ashford said she is now working with the American Heart Association to start getting information out to children about living a healthy, fit lifestyle.
“We are now focusing on the obesity rate in children,” she said. “If we can start at the top we can work our way down and hopefully make a difference in the next few years.”
For information about competing in the challenge, contact Ashford at bridgett.ash-ford@fowlerwhite.com.