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Fitness, one step at a time

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Want to be fit but don't have time to squeeze in a five-mile walk every day?

Rather than feel guilty, people should give themselves credit for the little bits of exercise they do while completing everyday tasks, said Karen Main, Goodhue County director of public health.

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"I always hear from community members that you have to go to a club, work out, sweat, then you've done your job, you've done your duty," said Susan Brace-Adkins, healthy communities director for Goodhue County Public Health.

"If that's not your deal, don't say, 'I'm not going to do anything,'" Brace-Adkins advised. "Any type of movement is beneficial to your body."

Some people just don't enjoy going to the gym, or maybe they don't have time.

Fortunately, there are many ways for people to work toward the recommended 10,000 extra steps a day.

"People go shopping, they get groceries," Main said, pointing to a step conversion chart for everyday activities that she and Brace-Adkins found through the HealthPartners 10,000 Steps Program.

"I love it," Main said of chart. "I couldn't walk three miles in 30 minutes, but I can snow shovel. It takes 30 minutes to do my sidewalk," she said.

"There's gardening, heavy gardening, weeding," Main said, adding up the steps per activity. "Or maybe you've got three miles in, so now you can just go for a two-mile walk.

"I think it's very motivating. I think it's giving credit for some of the things you already do," Main added.

Main said she's never been an athlete, but she tries to exercise regularly. For her New Year's resolution, she decided to go for a daily walk for six months and try to make it a habit. "And it makes a habit. I do it," she added.

"The health department wants people to feel good about little bits and do little bits," Main said.

"If there was a magic pill, physical activity would be it," Brace-Adkins said. "There are benefits to just moving your body regularly, and we just do not move enough in our culture.

"The research has indicated that it's better to be active and overweight than thin and sedentary," Brace-Adkins said.

Main and Brace-Adkins point out that news about the health benefits of foods is constantly changing. However, physical activity has always been known to improve health.

"What you have to do is more rewarding when you realize it's part of your physical activity," Main said.

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