Shape Up America! Newsletter
Walk Score™…How Walkable is Your Community?
by Cathy Costakis, MS
The benefits of regular physical activity for
our health and well-being are well
documented. Over the past 50 years, however,
our increased dependence on the automobile,
coupled with the invention of many
labor-saving devices, has caused physical
activity to be engineered out of our lives.
It is now possible to go through an entire
day without walking more than a few minutes
at a time. Suburban sprawl encourages more
driving, more polluting and fewer
human-powered transportation options, thus
creating less active environments for people
to live, work and play.
A movement is growing across the country to
create more walkable communities that support
"active living" — places where children and
adults can safely walk to school and work and
where other destinations such as shops,
restaurants and parks are close to home.
Many studies support the association between
certain features of the built environment and
physical activity. These features include
the number, proximity and diversity of
destinations; the density of residential and
employment areas; the connectivity,
accessibility and safety of sidewalks and
trails; the aesthetics (how pleasing the
environment is for walking); and the
accessibility of parks and open
Many tools exist to assess environments for
their "walkability." One such tool is called
type in the address of the location you want
to score and, in seconds, Walk Score
calculates the walkability of the address.
- computes the distance to walkable locations
near an address
- calculates a score for each location
- combines these scores into one easy-to-read
Although this scoring system has significant
value in determining the number, proximity,
and diversity of destinations to your
particular location, it lacks the ability to
include other important characteristics of a
walkable neighborhood (e.g., safety,
accessibility, topography). The developers
of Walk Score readily admit the tool's
limitations and point out how
it doesn't work on their Web site.
Nonetheless, I found this tool to be a fun
and easy way to find out part of the
walkability story. Now that you know some of
the variables that determine the walkablity
of your location, you will just have to go
out and get some of that good ol' physical
activity to get the rest of the story!
Good community design supportive of active
lifestyles, for recreation and active
transportation, is just one of the many
public health strategies that are needed to
promote healthier lifestyles at the
population level. Encouragement and
incentives are also needed because the "build
it and they will come" strategy is not
enough. Too many things in our environment
conspire to make the healthful choice the
most difficult choice. If we are to make any
headway toward improving the health of the
nation, we will need to touch people at
multiple levels (i.e., individual, family,
community) and support them with policy and
environmental changes that make healthful
eating and active living the social and
cultural norms of the future.
Cathy Costakis, MS, is the physical activity
coordinator for the Montana Nutrition and
Physical Activity (NAPA) program. NAPA is a
statewide program funded through the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention and
located at Montana State University-Bozeman.
NAPA aims to improve the health of all
Montanans through policy and environmental
change and statewide/community interventions
focusing on nutrition, physical activity,
breastfeeding and caloric balance.
Counting Steps for Fun
by Francesca Zavacky
As you plan fall excursions for your family,
make regular physical activity a high
priority. In honor of October
Walk to School Month, consider the value of
using pedometers to make your adventures
interesting, educational and personally
Today's pedometers are very user friendly,
small and inconspicuous, and can serve as a
wonderful motivator for accumulating some of
the 60 minutes of daily physical activity
recommended for children by the
Association for Sport and Physical Education
Pedometers are readily available at local
sporting good stores, outdoor outfitters and
online on pedometer Web sites such as
Lifestyles, both companies that
specialize in user friendly pedometers that
are reasonably accurate and durable.
Walk4Life also has WalkSmart!®
web-based walking program that is a fun way
to increase your family's daily physical
It's important that everyone wears a
pedometer correctly. Firmly clip the
pedometer to a belt or waistband on your
clothing, preferably in line with the center
of your knee. Keep it vertical and snug; if
it tilts to one side or the other or bounces
around, it will not count your steps
accurately. You may want to secure it with a
safety pin or use the security strap that
comes with it and loop it through a belt loop
to keep the pedometer in place. If excess
abdominal fat causes the pedometer to angle,
try placing it at the side of the hip or
slightly below the waist. Also make sure the
pedometer is closed.
Often, simple is best. Start by purchasing a
pedometer that just counts steps and operates
with a simple reset button. Look for a
pedometer with an easy-to-read digital display.
Once you have outfitted your family with
pedometers, it's time to head out on your
grand adventure. Ideas for using them are
only limited by your imagination. For example:
Individual challenges to achieve the most
steps can be a great way to get your kids on
the move and interested in staying on the go.
- Heading off to a corn maze? Guess how many
steps or miles it might take to navigate your
way in and out of the maze.
- Off to a museum, a zoo or battlefield? How
many steps can the kids achieve versus the
- Going to the orchard to pick apples?
Planning a trip to the pumpkin patch? Guess
in advance who will do the most walking and
compete to see who wins.
- Walking the dog? Doing this several times a
day is a guaranteed way to add steps.
If you have younger children, try a
collective exercise challenge. Set a family
goal, let's say 35,000 steps, and challenge
the entire family to accumulate those steps
throughout the day. Check the pedometer
occasionally to view your progress, using
math skills to mentally add the rapidly
rising number of steps. These strategies can
be used when you visit an amusement park, go
out for a nature hike, or even when you
venture out to the grocery store or spend
time shopping at the local mall.
Once you and your family begin to examine
your walking habits, you may be surprised at
how few or how many steps you accumulate
during some very routine activities. Walking
around is guaranteed never to be the same again!
Here are some suggestions that provide
everyone with exercise, enjoyment and time
- Walk or bike to school, lessons, practices
and stores, when possible.
- Spend time outside playing actively.
- Provide plenty of positive feedback when
your kids are physically active. Find
activities that match their skill level and
interests, foster confidence and provide
opportunities for success every time.
- Realize that teens may be interested in a
more formal exercise program such as group
classes, personal training or a gym
environment that is supportive and
- Motivate teens with immediate rewards for
being physically active. Involve them in
setting goals for regular activity. Then
identify incentives, such as movie tickets,
music, clothing or extra privileges, for
meeting their goals.
- Motivate children and teens to increase
their daily physical activity by using
pedometers. If your family has been fairly
inactive, pedometers may be a good starting
point. Web sites such as Walk4Life
Walking promote pedometer use and offer kits
and products to get families started.
- Kids who love video games, the Web and
other electronic media may be interested in
active games such as Dance Dance Revolution
and Web sites such as
Francesca Zavacky is Senior Manager of the
National Association for Sport and Physical
Get Moving…Be Happy!
Another important study documenting the power
of exercise has just been published. A small
but very well designed (prospective,
randomized, placebo-controlled) study
compared aerobic exercise to standard
antidepressant medication and found that
exercise performed just as well as the drug
in alleviating depression.1
Individuals in all groups met objective
criteria for major depression. There were two
exercise groups that received the same
exercise prescription of 30 minutes of
aerobic exercise three times a week, but one
group participated in supervised group
exercise at each session and the other group
was expected to exercise at home. There was a
drug treatment group, as well as a
placebo-control group. In all four groups,
depression was alleviated, and in each group
a percentage went into remission: supervised
exercise — 45%; home exercise —
treatment — 47%; and placebo group
Since certain antidepressant medications are
known to cause weight gain, the fact that
exercise performed as well as the drug
treatment in reducing depression is noteworthy.
Christina found that being mindful of her
and committed to exercise pays off. Her
positive attitude and perseverance are
helping her become a healthier, happier
This story is personal to me, to you, to us.
It is not a tale of the magical event I did
to arrive where I am today, but rather a tale
of how I applied my mind, body, and whole
self to the act of becoming not just fit, but
healthy. It is my hope that as you all read
this, by the end you, yourself, will feel
ready to face the challenges that will await
you in the course of your journey to becoming
a healthier person. This is my story.
I remember the meeting when I stepped on the
scale and saw 219½ pounds! Being only 4 feet
11 inches tall, I wanted to cry! Driving to
my home in Anchorage, I could feel the anger
welling up in me, knowing that the time had
come to lose the weight and this time for
good. I began reading all kinds of diets and
books, frustrated at their limitations on the
items of food which could and could not be
eaten. I began to look at them from a more
analytical point. What were the things that
each diet had in common?
I already knew that in order to lose weight
you must reduce your calorie intake by 500
calories a day, exercise at least 30 minutes
for three times a week, and drink plenty of
water. Pondering those components I made my
mind up not to diet, but to use the principle
of cutting calories, to burn more than you
are consuming. I started to exercise slowly
walking the coastal trail EVERY DAY for 21
days, because it takes 21 days to make a
habit. After those first 21 days, I added a
workout program called "Slim in 6." At first,
I used the first video program, which was 25
minutes, three times a week. As this routine
got easier, I began adding more to my
workouts and working out longer. For the
first seven months the weight came off slowly
and I was satisfied, but becoming angry that
I still was not yet under 200, I knew it was
going to take more than exercise.
Not wanting to give up the idea of eating
whatever I wanted, I learned the true value
of a quote I keep with me now from the Roman
lyric poet Horace, "Rule your mind or it will
rule you." You may ask how this applies to
weight loss: when there are foods you like,
it is not about not eating them or deeming
them bad but learning to control the cravings
and when to give in. Read
If you would like to share your personal
success story and be an inspiration to others
who desire to lose weight, simply use our story
submission system on the SUA Web site.
Recipe of the Month
Run a fork across the flesh of cooked spaghetti squash and you'll see that it resembles strands of spaghetti. Try this squash as a lower-calorie, lower-carbohydrate substitute for spaghetti.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SESAME-PEANUT
Makes 4 entrée-sized servings
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 2 Tbsp. chunky peanut butter
- ¼ cup fat-free, reduced sodium chicken
- 1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts, for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pierce the spaghetti squash generously
with a knife to prevent it from exploding.
Place the squash on a microwave-safe dish and
microwave on high until tender when pressed
with your fingers or pierced with a thin
skewer, about 15 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting
the squash. When cool, halve the squash and
remove the seeds. Scrape the flesh with a
fork, collecting the "spaghetti" strands in a
medium-sized bowl. Separate the strands using
a fork or your fingers.
- In a blender or food processor, mix
the peanut butter, broth, soy sauce, garlic,
ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and red pepper
flakes until completely blended. Add the
peanut sauce to the separated, cooked
spaghetti squash. Toss to coat.
- Garnish with scallions and peanuts, if
desired. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 130
calories, 7 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated
fat, 16 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein,
4 grams dietary fiber, 200 milligrams sodium.
Source: American Institute for Cancer Research,
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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD