he world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is leading the march toward a more healthful lifestyle through the InStep for Life program. The walking initiative, spearheaded by DeWitt Williams, director of the North American Division (NAD) Health Ministries Department, is designed to create healthful exercise habits and promote an active lifestyle.
“We are trying to get the word out and set an example that it can be done, people can have fun doing it, and it can make a difference,” Williams said.
Starting October 15, 2008, about 400 employees at the General Conference (GC) office in Silver Spring, Maryland, began counting their daily steps as part of the pilot program using pedometers supplied by the NAD Health Ministries Department.
“Our goal was to get people to walk about five miles a day,” Williams explained. “We did a lot of walking.”
The program is built on an estimated five miles equaling 10,000 steps. Many GC and NAD employees met this goal, and a few walked as many as 40,000 steps (or 20 miles) a day.
John Pack, purchasing director for the GC, is a dedicated walker. Pack logged more than 2.2 million steps during the two-month period. Pack said he jogged at least four miles each morning with his dog, walked another four to six miles during breaks at work and his lunch hour, and ran another four to eight miles in the evening.
“Once I put my mind to something like this I just keep going,” Pack said.
Many employees noticed their health improve as they exercised more. Participants praised the program for lowering blood pressure, helping arthritis, enabling weight loss, and even improving concentration.
“I felt better during those two months,” Pack said. “I’ve slacked off a little now, but I’m still in the best exercising shape of my life.”
A Divisionwide Initiative
Although the first phase, or pilot program, of InStep is completed at the GC, a second phase has begun. Employees are tracking their steps again. They started January 1, and this time they are joined by churches throughout the North American Division.
The NAD InStep for Life program is meant to unite Seventh-day Adventists across North America and give them an achievable health goal. Participants increase the number of steps they can comfortably walk each day, until they reach 10,000 daily steps—the baseline for optimum health. By following this exercise program for a few weeks, it becomes a lifestyle that significantly improves health, fitness, and overall mental attitude.
InStep for Life was developed during the summer of 2007 by a special taskforce created by the NAD Health Ministries Advisory. The taskforce comprised health and fitness specialists from across the division’s territory—a diverse and dedicated group that took its challenge seriously. The taskforce members decided on a plan that would be scientifically based, yet simple enough that all church members, both young and old, would be able to participate. The plan would encourage and enable individuals to live healthier and happier lives, and better serve the One who above all else wishes for them to be prosperous and healthy. So InStep for Life was born.
A Prescription for Good Health
The benefits of walking shouldn’t be underestimated. Conservative studies indicate that walking programs such as InStep for Life can reduce the risk of major diseases by as much as 40 to 60 percent. Regular walking can greatly reduce nonchemical depression, improve brain function, and increase feelings of general well-being. Although InStep shouldn’t be considered a weight-control program, those who engage in daily walking often do lose weight. And these advantages are just the beginning.
InStep program leaders say that groups from conferences and churches throughout North America are feeling very positive about the wellness initiative. Katia Reinert, Columbia Union Conference InStep coordinator, for one, says she is seeing “amazing results” at her local church.
“Participants in the program are not only losing weight, feeling better, and getting fit—but, more important, growing in their walk with God,” Reinert says.
Motivated by a recent trip to the emergency room, Dawerne Bazan of the Capital Brazilian Temple, Fulton, Maryland, is now taking exercise seriously. He joined fellow InStep walkers from his church and noticed almost immediate improvement.
“The first week following the program I began . . . feeling healthier,” Bazan says. “My spiritual life was also renewed because I use my daily walk as a [time] to strengthen my relationship with God through prayer. The Instep for Life program has been my daily walk with God. I never want to stop doing it.”
How to Get Involved
Local churches and individuals who wish to get involved should visit www.instepforlife.com or contact their local InStep for Life coordinator or pastor. A pedometer is also vital for those wishing to participate. These step counters can be purchased through Advent Source (www.adventsource.org) at a reasonable cost.
“Plans are underway for the collective InStep efforts of unions, conferences, and churches to be highlighted at the General Conference session in Atlanta in 2010,” says E. W. Dempsey, InStep Committee director for conferences and unions. “We’re also planning a 5K walk/run during the GC session that will involve the Atlanta community and culminate the program.”
“If we really want to be healthier, happier, and better prepared for effective service, we must abandon our excuses and together join the walk toward a better and healthier life,” Williams says. “It’s my hope that not only will this program inspire Adventists to get ‘InStep for Life’ on this earth but also in step for life everlasting!”
Reg Burgess is coordinator of the Instep for Life Program. Matthew Herzel is a photography intern for Adventist Review.