Adding a short walk to your day can go a long way.

When it comes to health and wellness, Barbara Ferreira and Yvonne Allen, employees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), understand the power of small lifestyle changes, dedication, and consistency.

Allen, an admitting officer for Patient Access Services, decided that it was time to make a change around her 46th birthday in July 2011.

“I wanted to make myself a healthy person,” said Allen, noting that her primary care physician had been concerned about her weight. “I wasn’t going to join a gym, but I wanted to find out what I could do in one year’s time. So I started walking.”

During her morning commute, Allen began walking the second leg of her trip to BWH, which was a half-mile, instead taking the bus. She repeated this every day for several weeks.  Though she didn’t see or feel any changes, she forced herself to keep moving and set a weight loss goal of 10 to 30 pounds in a year.

One day, she noticed her clothes were a little looser. “Until then, I didn’t realize I was losing weight,” she said. “That’s when I started understanding what 30 minutes of walking a day could accomplish. By Christmas, I had lost as much weight as I anticipated losing in a whole year.”

Allen’s success motivated her to continue. Walking now became an activity she looked forward to rather than one she dreaded.  By her next birthday in July 2012, Allen had lost a total of 103 pounds. Beyond her personal motivation, Allen says it helped being around people who encouraged her.

Ferreira’s formula for becoming healthier also involved surrounding herself with a supportive community. She sought the advice of a nutritionist and began going to the gym before work for group fitness classes.

In addition to losing 90 pounds total, Ferreira has run a 5K race and participated in a Warrior Dash running series, complete with obstacles like crawling through mud, leaping over fire and scaling walls.

“I never thought I could do those things,” said Ferreira, who participated in  a four-hour bike spin-a-thon in November 2012 to benefit the American Diabetes Association. “Thinking about that keeps me going when I hit difficult patches.”

Lifestyle changes adopted by Allen and Ferreira may do more than help them lose weight, it may also extend their lives.  In a recently published study, BWH researchers found that adding low amounts of physical activity, such as 75 minutes per week of brisk walking, was associated with increased life expectancy.  Read more about this study in our blog post, Ten Thousand Steps to a Longer, Healthier Life.

Inspire our readers!  What simple changes have you made to improve your health?

– Michelle C

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