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Pieces of Eight


Physical Fitness Success Achieved One Step at a Time

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

In his mind, Emmett Floyd is walking these days on Interstate 40 somewhere between Nashville and Memphis. That’s more than 650 miles from Greenville.

In reality, he’s walking the track at the Student Recreation Center at East Carolina University, where he is a professor of educational leadership in the College of Education.

For the past four months, Floyd has been a participant in a study coordinated by ECU’s College of Health and Human Performance to find ways to integrate physical activity into participants’ lives. The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina State Health Plan.

During the four months of the study, March 1 to June 26, Floyd walked more than 1.5 million steps – or 655 miles. More than any other participant, thus far. And for his accomplishment, he will keep the university’s “Blue Cross-Blue Shield Million Step March” walking stick until someone else hits a million steps. The walking stick was presented to the university in late May by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to recognize the university’s commitment to a healthy work force.

ECU professor Emmett Floyd holds the Blue Cross Blue Shield Million Step March walking stick that honors the 1.5 million steps - or 655 miles - he has made since joining an ECU study to enhance physical activity. (Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi)

Floyd received the walking stick during a closing event for the study to celebrate the participants’ successes.

“It has become a life changing event for me,” Floyd said recently after his daily trip to the Student Recreation Center. He has lost 14 pounds and three inches in his waist since beginning the study. And he is proud to say his total cholesterol is down 30 points.

At the beginning of the program, each of the 125 ECU and other state employee participants had their health assessed.

“My cholesterol wasn’t really too high. It was 206. But I’m 63 years old, and they showed me that I was in the high risk category for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. And that was the hit between the eyes for me.”

Floyd said that during the assessment, he learned that he could positively change many of the variables regarding his overall health. “The report shocked me, but it also showed me that I was the one who could change this,” he said.

The aim of the grant is not just about getting employees to become more active, said Mike McCammon, an ECU professor of exercise science who oversaw the study.

The bottom-line component, from an insurer’s perspective, is to promote the idea that an active lifestyle now will help prevent chronic health issues – and large medical bills – later.

“I was the ultimate couch potato. Now I’m on a regular exercise program. I lift weights three days a week, and do cardio exercise for at least 45 minutes every day,” Floyd said.

“I don’t know if they anticipated that someone would walk that many steps during the study,” he said. “We had to wear a pedometer, and they took the reading every two weeks. When I was getting close to a million steps, that became my personal goal.”

“It’s been a great program for me. It’s been life changing and probably life saving for me,” Floyd said. “On the map in my mind, I left Greenville at the beginning of March and went west on I-40… now I’m between Nashville and Memphis. I’m going to stop around Memphis, find Elvis, and then keep walking.”

Even though the study is over, Floyd still wears his pedometer every day and is able to transfer the data to his home computer. His daily steps goal is 8,000, and a recent print out shows he’s at 108 percent of his goal.

At this rate, he’s going to need another pair of walking shoes soon. He’s on his third pair since joining the study.

This page originally appeared in the Aug. 1, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at