Shellie's Story: Finding Time for Physical Activity
"It wasn't that I was sick or anything. But I didn't have the energy I used to, and I was starting to worry about my future health."
That worry is what led Shellie, 39, to take a good, long look at her daily habits. "Staying in shape takes time," she said, "and time is what I just don't have as a single mom with a full-time job."
An office manager with an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, Shellie was at an unhealthy weight. And her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were starting to creep up. That concerned her, because her mother has type 2 diabetes and her father died of a heart attack when he was just 48.
"I realized that I had put myself on the back burner for too long and it was time for me to make time for myself, even if it was just a few minutes a day," she said. "I wrote myself a note and taped it to my bathroom mirror. It said, 'I will take a 10-minute walk during my morning coffee break every day this week.'"
The next week, another note went up on the mirror. This one said, "I will take a 10-minute walk during my morning break AND my afternoon break every day this week." Those two walks added up to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and she was delighted to find that they did NOT take any extra time out of her day.
One of her coworkers, Tara, started walking with Shellie during their breaks. "Tara used a phone app that kept track of how many steps she took. She had this contest with herself to see how many steps she could record during a regular work day.
She found a free app and turned it on every morning. At work she looked for every opportunity to get up and walk around. "I'd walk over to someone's desk instead of e-mailing or phoning them. Once in a while I'd walk up the stairs to the second floor just for no reason. It was actually fun to check the numbers."
Tara, who walked to work every day, came up with an idea: Shellie could drive to Tara's house, park her car, and join Tara in the 10-minute walk to work. At the end of the day, they could return together—or on their own if their schedules didn't work out.
"It meant leaving my house 15 minutes early and getting home 15 minutes later," said Shellie, "but that seemed like something I could fit in, so I tried it for a week and it was great. I got more exercise, I built up steps on my app, and I had company."
She's kept up that schedule for 2 years now, despite the fact that 6 months ago Tara left the company for another job across town. "I still park my car at Tara's house," Shellie said. "It's become such a habit. I honestly don't even think about it. In fact, when something comes up and I miss any of my walks, I get a little cranky."
Today Shellie's blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are back down to normal. "Plus, I'm 25 pounds lighter and have so much more energy now. I have no more problems keeping up with my kids!"
This story is based on information gathered from many people facing this health issue.
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.