How the 'Change My Steps Challenge' Changed Me

Aug 6, 2013, 9:00 AM

Aneesah Gilbert participated in the "Change My Steps Challenge,” organized by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar Chileshe Nkonde-Price, MD, to address the fact that heart disease rates are increasing among Black women.

At age 26, I came to the realization that I wasn’t getting any younger. With this being so obvious, you’re probably sarcastically wondering: How did she figure that out? Well, I will tell you the story. One winter morning I awakened to my left arm so numb I thought it was not my own. My arm was numb because I’d slept on it all night (I had slept this way from birth up until this point).

I visited my doctor and discussed this tragedy, he laughed as he does normally to all my hypochondriac symptoms. After he had a good chuckle he told me that because of my weight (all 210 lbs. of me), the blood flow was being cut off in my arm and caused it to go numb. He then told me that my weight could cause a number of issues I did not want to experience at 26 years of age. I went home, grabbed my computer, typed in the search bar ‘DIET’ and began my stretch of unsuccessful attempts at losing weight. I came up with this personal fact: There is no diet or exercise that will work for me if I am not willing to work for it.

On July 9, my friend Brenda and I enrolled in the Change My Steps Challenge. I was excited because I am slightly competitive, and any competition driven to get people up on their feet is right up my lane. Dr. Chileshe Price sent information on how to compete in the challenge. First thing was to download a pedometer on your cell phone to calculate your steps. I researched pedometer applications for Android phones and found that that the NOOM app was perfect for me.

I began by setting a goal for myself of 1,000 steps every day and increasing that by 100 or more steps every day until the challenge was complete. Monday morning I sat down on the train and checked the NOOM Walk app—I had already attained 1,811 steps. My adrenaline was pumping! I was excited so I took the long way to work. I walked down 15th street, past Love Park on to Arch Street and down to 17th street.

Entering the challenge I’d already scheduled stairs instead of escalators, walking further for lunch, walking around the office to speak with coworkers instead of calling them on their extensions, taking the stairs to go to the restroom instead of the elevator, picking up the mail for the office—and then, to get in a 15-minute walk after work. I surprised myself Monday evening when I looked at the pedometer and it read 11,002 steps walked.

That Tuesday, Brenda and I walked for two and a half hours and we strived to push a little harder every day following. Not only did Dr. Price encourage everyone in the Change My Steps Challenge with regular emails cheering us on and supporting every step, the NOOM Walk app allows you to post worldwide for everyone to see your steps. Other NOOM Walk apps let users comment on your achievements. Also the NOOM Walk app has a weight loss coach option which is designed to assist in healthy choices for your day-to-day consumption. I also love that it keeps a record of your all-time greatest walk. To date my greatest day was July 11th for 19,811 steps.

My group did not win the Change My Steps Challenge—we came in second place—but I believe all of the competitors gained something a little more than winning. I cannot wait for this competition to happen again; I will most definitely be competing. I am very proud of my steps and all the competitors in this challenge should be too, because every step counts. Physically and literally!

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Read more about RWJF grantees who are harnessing the power of technology to advance a culture of health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.