Plano: The Heart Hospital walking club promotes heart health one step at a time
Hospital employees meet weekly during their lunch breaks to walk the indoor course, seven laps around the skywalk between The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano campuses, as part of the hospital's PaceMakers walking club. (Ronnie Baker / Staff Photos)
Clinicians at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano have started a new program to promote healthy leaving and heart-health awareness.
The PaceMakers, a walking club of 120 hospital employees and counting, was started by Julie Hartman, director of cardiac rehabilitation, and Louise Hunt-Price, an administrative assistant, at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.
"This is something that we have wanted to do at the hospital for a while now," she said. "It coincided with the 100-Day Challenge, which is an employee's wellness program that companies across Dallas participate in to promote healthy living. It was a good time to kick it off." Under The 100-Day Challenge, employees track their weight and/or activity for 100 days to promote a healthy lifestyle.
"Adding the PaceMakers to the 100-Day Challenge was an easy way to incorporate exercise activity for the hospital employees," Hartman said.
Not only does the group's challenge coincide with the hospital's wellness program, but also Heart Health Awareness Month.
"We were really excited to kick off during Heart Month," Hartman said. "We're always working to provide a healthy work environment for our employees."
PaceMakers walkers walk with fellow club members at one of two times during the day on an inside or outside course. Walkers must keep a daily walking journal noting how far they walked, how long they walked, how many miles or steps walked and speed. Club members are given a free pedometer to help keep track.
"The club is open to all hospital employees," Hartman said. "We were only expecting 20 to 30 people to show up in the informational meeting, but almost 100 people came and were interested in joining."
The PaceMakers Club is not only about walking, but also healthy living. At the club's monthly meetings, a caterer provides a healthy meal with the meal's nutrition facts and a guest speaker talks about different aspects of healthy living. For example, a dietician spoke to the group about food labels and portion sizes at the group's first meeting.
"The main goal is exercise, but I know that a lot of people there are interested in nutrition and losing weight as well," she said.
Another aspect of healthy living is healthy communication among group members, Hartman said.
"It's also a good teambuilding exercise and promotes healthy communication in that people from different areas of the hospital are getting together and talking while they walk," she said.
To keep the walkers excited about the program, Hartman has created a prize system that rewards club members based on how many miles they have walked.
"The prizes are an ongoing motivational tool for the members," she said.
Some of the prizes include a T-shirt, baseball cap, walking towel, water bottle, windbreaker jacket and a jogging suit.
"For members who have walked 500 miles, we'll be giving them a jogging suit, a pair of shoes and a pin," Hartman said. "We in the health care system are really big on pins, so that's the perfect prize for someone who's walked that much and is that committed to the club."
Hartman said the group will also show hospital patients that hospital employees practice what they preach.
"It wouldn't be right for us to tell a patient how to better their lives and not do it ourselves; it's like seeing an overweight dietician or a respiratory therapist who smokes," she said. "We are The Heart Hospital, and we promote healthy living and active lifestyles. We want to give our employees every opportunity to able to exercise and get healthy."
This is a sentiment that is shared by employees across the hospital, Hartman said.
"This is something that is really supported from the president on down," she said. "He has told us that his goal is to come and walk with us as frequently as he can. He really is on board with supporting a healthy work environment here at the hospital."
Hartman said the PaceMakers will still meet to walk long after the 100-Day Challenge ends.
"Our group is taking on a life of its own because our hospital employees are so excited about it," she said. "We plan on continuing the PaceMakers forever."
The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano encourages members of the community to create similar walking groups to promote healthy living and heart-health awareness, Hartman said.
"It doesn't take a lot of time to organize. It's a fun and easy way to start getting active," she said.
Hartman suggests walkers consult a doctor before engaging in any strenuous activity and to start out slow to build up stamina.
"One of the main things that we want to make sure is to go at a pace that is comfortable for you," she said. "If you can't measure out distances to walk, you can walk consistently for 30 minutes."