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Judy Spooner: The Happy Feet team is on the move

I joined the Happy Feet team last week and we are on the move as participants in School District 833's 10K-a-day five-week exercise program.

My team members, Mary Nast, Peggy Joswiak, Jennifer Keeling and Tracy Berzinski, work in the Cottage Grove Middle School office to support students and staff members.

The goal is 10,000 steps a day for five weeks, which translates into 5 miles a day. I'm wearing a pedometer all day long that measures my steps.

I already walk 4 to 5 miles a day with a combination of a 40-minute treadmill program and a walk later in the day with friend Ruth for a half hour or so.

When the weather is nice, we walk outside and walk the track at the Park High School Activity Center in the winter. The track can be boring, so bring a friend to pass the time.

I've noticed, however, while wearing the pedometer, that I'm doing all those things my doctor told me to do. I'm parking as far away as possible from the grocery store and other places I go during the day. I'm taking stairs instead of elevators so I can boost my steps to help my team rack 'em up.

I called Bill Hickman, district health and wellness coordinator, and he told me 220 district staff members are on four- or five-person teams in addition to 52 individuals.

Last fall, a district survey revealed staff members wanted a walking program of some type, he said.

"It's never too late to start an exercise program," said Hickman, who has a health or wellness theme every month on various topics for district staff members.

Being on a team has people doing things together. "It makes it more fun," he said, and wellness programs help to bring down the district's health insurance costs.

I checked on my team members today, just in time to catch Mary and Jennifer going for a 20-minute walk during their lunch break.

That's about a mile for those of you who are keeping track and burns about 100 calories. Walk up and down hills, or "butt busters," as I call them, and you'll burn more calories.

My team is also trying to eat more healthful foods.

I gained a few pounds on a recent vacation so I'm cutting calories, too.

When I'm maintaining my weight, 5 miles a day allows me to eat ice cream, my favorite treat.

Mary said getting into 10K-a-day makes it easier to exercise because it's scheduled and she does it every day. She also walks with her husband in the evening.

There are lots of reasons to walk, bike or be more active and I should have done this years ago. Of all the health benefits listed, I like the "slowing aging" part the best.

Taking a 20-minute walk every day is a good start, but weight loss requires more than 40 minutes a day in addition to restricting calorie intake.

Find your own way if you're thinking about starting an exercise program. Experts say you should set goals, but I didn't do that. I just started and now it's fun.

Go Happy Feet!