Do you need something to motivate you to set and keep fitness goals? Extension Educator Gracie Marlatt recommends Small Steps to Health and Wealthª, a national Cooperative Extension program developed to motivate Americans to take action to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. SSHW was built around a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies. This online program is available free of charge to anyone who enrolls.
Periodically they will hold six-week SSHW Challenges where you compete with others throughout the country. Marlatt, the health and human sciences educator with Purdue Extension in Rush County, shares that several Rush County residents participated in the SSHW Winter 2012 Challenge, and found the experience to be beneficial. The Fitness Initiative Team of Rush County promoted their participation and encouraged them through the Partners for a Healthy Rush County Facebook page. Ê
It has been well documented that, when people monitor their behavior and measure their how they're doing, they are often inspired to do better and achieve positive results. Participants in the SSHW program are "on their honor" to report their activities accurately. If they "cheat" on reporting their points, they are only cheating themselves by not following the recommended daily practices.
The SSHW program is based on the performance of ten recommended practices on a daily basis: five that involve health and nutrition and five that involve financial management. Ten points are given for performing each one for a maximum of 700 points per week and 4,200 points for the entire challenge.
"Small Steps for Health and Wealthª is a great way to convert ambitious goals, like losing weight and saving money, into daily action steps," notes Dr. Barbara O'Neill, extension specialist in financial resource management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
The five daily health and nutrition practices are: eat at least 4 cups of fruits and vegetables; get at least 30 minutes of exercise; drink water or unsweetened beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages; walk 10,000 or more steps with a pedometer; and learn something new about health and nutrition.
The five daily financial management practices included in SSHW are: save a $1 bill (or more) and/or pocket change; invest $5 or more per day (including automated retirement savings plan deposits); track money spent throughout the day; eat lunch prepared at home; and learn something new about personal finance. The latter activity, for both health and personal finances, can be accomplished by visiting web sites, attending seminars, or by reading, listening to, or viewing media reports. Ê
New last year, SSHW participants have an opportunity to replace one daily health activity and one daily personal finance activity with unique daily personal challenges of their own. "Providing some adaptation of the
traditional SSHW program format will make the it more "personal" for participants and give them an opportunity to practice new behaviors if they are already doing all of the 10 pre-selected activities," explained Dr. O'Neill.
As participants enter their personal data, they will see their point totals for each day of the week and for each of the ten activities described above.
During a Challenge, they'll also see a bar graph that compares their personal progress to the average scores of everyone else participating in the Challenge. Daily motivational messages will also be provided to participants. Paper tracking forms can be downloaded to keep track of daily activities until they are entered online.
Doing even one of the ten recommended daily practices is a great way to get started on the path to better health and improved financial security. The more SSHW activities that are performed by participants, the better. Ê
Currently, there is not a SSHW Challenge, but individuals can still sign up and benefit from the program by visiting the Rutgers SSHW Web site at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/. Marlatt encourages you to share your
experience on Facebook Ð Partners for a Healthy Rush County or by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 932-5974.