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Winn challenges community to get healthy

Participants try to adopt new habits

POSTED: March 10, 2013 10:30 p.m.

Winn Army Community Hospital’s Departments of Preventive Medicine is challenging the Fort Stewart and Hunter communities to a six-week challenge designed to get them eating healthier, exercising more and limiting time in front of the television or computer.
The challenge is designed to change the damaging behaviors of poor nutrition and inactivity, which lead to obesity and other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
“Seventy percent of diets fail unless lifestyle changes occur — that’s a fact,” said advanced practice registered nurse Sandra Durrence, child obesity-prevention manager with Winn Army Preventive Medicine. She is spearheading the challenge and clarified that it is not a diet program, but a lifestyle-change program to combat unhealthy behaviors.
Obesity rates in the area are high, she said, and the military community here mirrors the local population. The Southern medical region has the highest rate of obesity out of all of the military’s medical regions, she said. About one in every three children in Georgia are obese, which is why it is important to spread the word on this challenge through the local schools and for families to participate together, she said.
Durrence said the challenge uses the National Institute of Health’s principles and urges participants to incorporate a new healthy habit into their lives each week. Participants start out by adding 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. Next, in subsequent weeks, they try to drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut sugary drinks and limit TV time.  
Since statistics show that it takes at least six weeks of performing something new to make the habit part of a person’s daily routine, she says they set the challenge at six weeks, but participants are expected to continue with all of their healthy behaviors after completing the challenge. The challenge is not running on a set schedule; it’s an ongoing initiative that allows participants to start when they want.
Participants are given a log-sheet to track and monitor their daily and weekly progress throughout the challenge. They also are offered handouts with supporting information on healthy eating and calorie intake to help make better meal choices. The Department of Public Health Nursing also offers weekly weigh-in opportunities at Winn ACH in building 308. Nursing staff will calculate weight, blood pressure, body-mass index and body-fat percentage.
“Currently, there are 201 adults from within the Winn Department of Nursing and Marne Community Club members, as well as approximately 1,200 students and staff at Brittin and Kessler Elementary Schools on Fort Stewart, participating,” Durrence said.
Durrence still wants to spread the word about the challenge to more soldiers, family members and civilians beyond the gates of the installation.
“We want the whole community to be healthy,” she said.
At the end of their challenges, participants are asked to challenge at least two other people they know to take part. Durrence hopes that as more people get involved in the challenge, it will have a snowball-like effect on participation and the health and well-being of the community.
At the end of the six weeks, participants’ completed logs will be reviewed. Participants are deemed successful if at least 50 percent of the boxes on their logs are checked; however, Durrence said that weight loss and a reduction in BMI are additional indicators of success.
The results and response so far have been positive, she said. Participants during the past six weeks have averaged about a 2 percent loss in body fat, meaning they now have leaner muscle tissue and less fat surrounding vital organs.
“The best success, by far, is not in the number of changes, but rather the improved self-esteem, body image and energy levels that the participants are reporting during weigh-ins,” she said. “Once people get used to the changes, they begin to look forward to exercising more regularly and drinking more water.”
Anyone can participate in the challenge, Durrence said; it’s not just for people with access to Fort Stewart. Individuals and organizations — especially churches and community groups — that would like more information about how they can participate in the challenge can contact Durrence through Winn Army Preventive Medicine at 912-435-5071. Weigh-ins for participants are available at WACH every Tuesday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in building 308.

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