Get Fit TN

State Provides Tools to Help Residents Shape Up

New decade … same old resolutions.
At the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, Tennesseans from the northeast corner to the Mississippi River made similar vows … to make 2010 the year they finally lose weight/quit smoking/start exercising. In short, this is the year to get healthier.
But maybe … just maybe … this year will be different.
While it’s inevitable that some will falter, many others will strengthen their resolve and recognize that even small changes can ultimately pay big dividends. To make it easier to keep committed, the Tennessee Department of Health features a host of free tools on their interactive Web site:
Click through the site, and you quickly discover the types of features touted by national programs that charge stout fees. There are numerous calculators to figure everything from the money saved by quitting smoking to the number of calories that must be burned to reach a goal weight. The fitness tracker and nutrition tracker allow users to set goals and chart progress.
There’s an online food journal with a link to the USDA’s caloric database of more than 7,500 foods … including fast food options. Want to find a fun run or health fair? Check out the event calendar. Have a question about nutrition? Go to the “Ask a Dietician” section. Want to cook healthier at home? Try the link to easy, affordable recipes. Wondering if there’s a silver lining to housework? Check out the number of calories burned while dusting and vacuuming. There’s a place to enter fitness goals, health goals, keep up with lab results and track your progress. And it’s all free.
Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN, said although the site isn’t new, it is continually evolving. She noted the concept was born from research undertaken to launch Project Diabetes. A rudimentary Get Fit site was up by late 2006 with bells and whistles being added since then. Although designed with Tennesseans in mind, Cooper said the site has attracted users from across the United States and even foreign countries.
“We hear that it’s one of the best free tools out there to support the journey to becoming more healthy,” she said. Cooper added that although it’s an excellent resource in the fight against obesity, it is truly designed for people at every fitness level. As with the Project Diabetes concept, Get Fit’s online tools can assist users as part of a treatment strategy or as a preventative measure. Cooper said almost anything with a number could be recorded, such as blood glucose, blood pressure and weight. The tracking options even allow users to download graphs to share with healthcare providers.
At the core of the site is the ability to customize features to meet users where they are … from reforming couch potato to athlete. “There’s not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to health and fitness,” said Cooper. “There’s an optimum level of fitness for everybody, and it’s a personal journey.”
To make it easier to begin that journey, the team was adamant that cost not be a stumbling block. “Economic issues should not be barriers to helping any Tennessean either achieve or maintain a healthy level of fitness,” Cooper stated unequivocally. “We truly believe that if we’re going to underpin everything we do to protecting, promoting and improving health … which is what we do … then we need to invest in Tennesseans, and they need to have ready access to free tools.”
Although designed with personal goals in mind, the site also works well for small businesses as a workplace wellness program. Companies from around the state have used it to create team challenges and encourage employees to take steps … often literally … to become healthier. Cooper said Tennessee State Government issued a challenge across all departments last spring to “March to the Moon,” which totals about 240,000 miles of walking. While participants fell a bit short at month’s end, the competition turned quite a few into walking converts. “It encouraged folks to be a little more active,” said Cooper. “Our mantra from day one has been ‘start where you are.’ This is not about making marathon runners. If you’re not exercising today, move a little. Five minutes becomes 10 minutes, which quickly becomes 30 minutes.”
The good news for a state that typically ranks in the basement when it comes to making healthy behavioral choices is that numbers are beginning to look a little better. “We’ve seen our prevalence rates of diabetes fall for the first time. We know it’s just one data point, but it’s moving,” Cooper said. She added, the state has also recently seen a statistically significant decrease in the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, and the adult smoking rate was 5 percent lower in 2008 than it was in 1996.
While no one initiative can take credit for improved statistics, the combination of increased awareness and committed resources is beginning to have an impact. After all, when it comes to keeping resolutions, having the proper tools is a powerful motivator to stay the course.