Local Hospital Heart Challenge Encourages Life Changes
Eight families commemorate the end of the 100-day My Heart Challenge at an awards luncheon at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. –Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute
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The Utah families recently competed in the 2016 My Heart Challenge: Family Edition. The challenge sees the families participate in a 100-day program strengthening their hearts by improving their lifestyles with the winning family earning a year’s pass to Boondocks Food & Fun.
“It’s definitely been a lifestyle change for us,” Taylor Pitcher, 33, said of the challenge. Taylor, along with his wife Shasta, 30, and four kids Kylee, 9, Avery, 8, Makelle, 5, and Corbin, 2, won the grand prize at an awards luncheon on Aug. 5.
Started in 2012 by the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, the My Heart Challenge has seen firefighters, moms and educators participate in the competition. Dr. Kirk Knowlton, the institute’s director of cardiovascular research, said he hopes this year’s edition will be the most influential.
“The habits we learn in the home, taught by the mother and father, in many ways are what’s going to carry forward in their lives,” Knowlton said.
Gil Rodriguez, Murray City Fire Chief, participated in the event two years ago. He said this is perfect for families.
“That’s the greatest thing in the world because you’ve already got your built-in support system,” Rodriguez said.
Pitcher said doing it with the family was the best part.
“Hearing my daughters talk about what they’re going to eat and that they need more fruits and vegetables on [their] plate and seeing that change with your kids is awesome,” Pitcher said.
The families went through health assessments at the beginning and end of the 100 days to measure improvement. Points were accumulated through a combination of health outcomes such as exercising, lowering cholesterol levels, eating fruits and vegetables and raising awareness about heart health through a community event. One family, for example, put on a Zumba class.
Pitcher, who battles high blood pressure, said for his family, cutting down on screen time and portion sizes proved most effective.
Around 40 to 50 families applied for participation. Pitcher’s son, Corbin, has a congenital heart condition inspiring the family to apply.
“Learning how to live a healthy lifestyle was important…so as he gets older he can learn healthy ways to keep his heart healthy,” Pitcher said.
The eight families chosen also received coaching and counseling from exercise specialists, dietitians and heart experts throughout the challenge.
Altogether, the parents of the eight families lost 189 pounds, decreased cholesterol by 13.4 percent and slimmed their waist circumference 4.7 percent. The families, as a whole, exercised 26,937 minutes and had 2,310 servings of fruits and vegetables.
“No matter the level of success that you have to this point, you now have the tools that you need both to succeed as a family in the long run and ultimately that’s the most important thing,” Knowlton told the families at the awards luncheon.
Though his family will enjoy their time at Boondocks, Pitcher said there were bigger principles to take away from the experience.
“It’s a good feeling to win, but honestly the bigger thing to take away is the lifestyle changes we’ve been able to make,” Pitcher said.