Success Stories

Peggy A. Ostrom - How 10000 Steps A Day Saved My Life

I learned about the WISEWOMAN program and 10,000-Steps-A-Day in 2004. This program really saved my life. This is my story.

All my life I have had problems – weight problems, pain problems, sleep problems, memory problems, and problems keeping a job. I was always overweight, until I had my first child at age 23. I was sick the whole 9 months, gained 13 pounds, and lost 37 pounds after he was born. I have never been into exercising. I’d rather read. I like to walk, but never thought of it as exercise. To keep my mind off my pain, I took my books for my walks.

As I got older, the problems got worse. I went to doctors who all said the same thing, “nothing wrong that losing some weight won’t fix,” although they prescribed all kinds of things to alleviate whatever symptom was the worst at the time. Over the years I tried diet pills, Weight Watchers, other diet plans, and generally yo-yoed my way to a career high of 165 pounds. Since I am only a little over 5 feet tall, it was pretty ugly. I had trouble coping with stress, couldn’t focus, and was in a lot of pain. I stopped sleeping more than 2 hours at a stretch.

At the end of 2003 I took a temporary job in Ketchikan. I didn’t have a car, but my job came with a bus pass, so it wasn’t too bad. I found an apartment close to work, and did a lot of walking. While I was in Ketchikan, my husband moved to Haines. I found a job there – well really the job found me – and I followed a month later. The job was really high stress and I found that I was having difficulty coping. At this point, the WISEWOMAN program entered my life.

They gave me a pedometer and talked to me about 10,000 Steps-A-Day. During 2004, I was pretty lax about wearing the pedometer and about walking. I quit my job at the end of the 2004 tourist season, and started doing more walking, but then the snows came. I found that I couldn’t walk in the snow because my altered gait made the pain in my hips and knees unbearable. I began to get depressed again, and praying for a release from life became a predominate theme in my daily routine. I knew that I would have to make a major change again if I were going to survive.

In January, 2005, armed with information from the WISEWOMAN program, I returned to one of my former jobs in Ketchikan for a few months. I left the car and took my pedometer. My daughter gave me a calendar to record my steps and a journal to record my thoughts. A friend gave me a place to live. I was determined to make the necessary changes in my life. From the moment I stepped off the plane I knew I was going to be all right. I began to mark off distances in steps instead of in miles: from the condo where I lived to work - 870 steps one way; from the condo to the post office 5000 steps round trip; downtown – 5000 steps round trip. I lived my life according to the pedometer. I knew exactly how to get everything done in 10,000 steps a day. I walked to the grocery store - 500 steps away. I walked up and down every aisle whether I needed to or not. It didn’t matter if the weather was too bad for walking outside, I did it anyway. People got used to seeing me out in all kinds of weather. I turned down most offers of rides. I started paying close attention to what I ate. I eliminated meat from my diet. I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and I discovered yogurt smoothies and tofu. I quit eating the cookies and ice cream that had been a daily feature in my diet. The weight I had accumulated started coming off right away. I lost 10 pounds in the first 2 days, and didn’t stop losing until 40 pounds were gone. I went from a size 14-16 to a size 6-8. I was reluctant to buy new clothes because my budget was pretty tight, so my sister sent me outfits from her closet. Another benefit was that my pain became manageable, my mental acuity returned, and I learned to manage my other fibromyalgia symptoms. As my job got more stressful, I discovered that I could walk away from the stress by, well, walking. If things got too intense, I grabbed my book and went to lunch, or walked around the block. I explained to my employer and they were very understanding with my need to be flexible. As long as I got my work done, they didn’t really care when I was in the building. I worked smarter, and felt better than I had in years. I discovered that I really liked life. I also discovered that walking is exercise, and when done regularly, provides great benefits. I became known, as the person who walks while reading.

In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with Stage III Multiple Myeloma – a cancer of the blood plasma cells, and we moved to Kansas so that I could care for her. I learned to measure my steps in a whole new place, and I became known around the hospitals and different towns as the person who walks while reading. In December 2006, I walked the Honolulu Marathon 10K Race Day Walk.

Though my journey is not over yet, I know my life has been saved thanks, in great part, to the WISEWOMAN program, and 10,000 Steps A Day.