Use Variety to Get Your Heart Pumping

The month of February is closely associated with hearts: heart shaped Valentine’s Day Natural sign of love - heart made from small tomatoescards, heart shaped candies, and heart health awareness month. Researching heart health can become overwhelming. The amount and scope of literature and advice available on heart health is tremendous. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, it progresses slowly, and often we do not notice the changes in how our bodies feel until we seek treatment. However, reading between the scientific and professional lines, and the harrowing “do’s” and “don’ts” is a very simple truth: variety is one key to heart health.

The advice is to consciously incorporate a daily variety of fruits and vegetables. If we consume a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, our hearts reap the health benefits. As we know in Central Wisconsin, we may have several more months before fresh produce will be on the shelves of our local grocer or farmer’s market. With this being said, frozen fruits and vegetables make a wonderful alternative when fresh and seasonal are not available. Enjoy the last of the root vegetables and squashes before spring greens and berries arrive on the scene!

In addition to incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetable into our diet, variety in physical activity is another important key to heart health. Diversity can ensure that you do not become bored with the same walk around the block, or 3 mile run on the treadmill. It also ensures that your heart receives an assortment of healthy stresses to make it stronger. Just like variety in food choices helps avoid the feeling of stale meals, so too does the variety in physical activity keep you from hitting a plateau.

The science behind cardiovascular health can be confusing, so just remember the simple axiom: variety is the key to a healthy heart. Challenge yourself to constantly vary your activities and foods and give your heart a better place to live! You are what you eat, and what you do, so make a promise to yourself to honor your heart’s home by eating the rainbow and exercising regularly.

by Ashley J. Ormson

Bike to Work and School 2015

Biking in Downtown Stevens Point, 2014

Biking in Downtown Stevens Point, 2014

Be part of a fun, free and fit national event! Portage County offers many opportunities for the individual looking to incorporate physical activity into their routine. Green Options Portage County (GoPoCo) is just one of many groups working to bring more opportunities to you! Formerly known as the Bike to Work Group, GoPoCo celebrated National Bike to Work Week in 2014 by having the Mayor signing a formal declaration of Stevens Point’s participation in National Bike to Work Week and Day for years to come!

With busy schedules and hard deadlines, physical activity can sometimes be hard to fit into our limited 24 hour days. Yet, you don’t need to plan for an hour bike ride, a 15 minute commute to and from work on your bike is enough to get your healthy heart pumping!

Biking is something that Stevens Point and Portage County is known for, with the Green Circle Trail only a short distance to almost all residential areas and many other biking routes within our county limits. Biking to work is a great way to keep your wallet thicker, your waistline thinner and the air cleaner.

When you bike to work, you join a growing community of people who care about their health and their environment. Biking with your family and friends also builds community and the foundation for healthy lifestyle choices.

Ask your church, club, or employer to join GoPoCo in celebrating National Bike to Work Week May 11 – 15 and Bike to School Day on May 6! Let your group know physical activity is important to you, and keeps you healthy, happy, and productive!

Here are some examples of how local organizations supported GoPoCo and National Bike to Work and School observances in 2014:

  • Gave a promotional item (e.g. cup of coffee) for customers who arrived by bicycle or mass transit
  • Organized recreational bike rides for employees and the community
  • Hosted friendly competitions amongst employees
  • Posted  information (posters/website/social media) to promote “Bike to Work and School” activities

If you would like more ideas on how you can be part of this year’s celebration, please contact Thomas Wetter, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Human Development at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point:, or phone: 715-346-3659.

by Ashley J. Ormson

Make it a SMART New Year

2015 has arrived; a New Year means another 365 days to continue incorporating or start healthy eating and active living! But let’s not get carried away with the hype of a New Year’s Resolution; keep in mind a simple and smart philosophy. New Year’s resolutions can be and often are successful when thoughtfully made. This year, we challenge you to take 15 minutes to sit down at your kitchen table and write out a SMART 2015 Resolution which will help you maintain or meet your physical activity and smart eating goals throughout the year.

Download the PC Can SMART Goal Worksheet

First, it is important to be simple and specific. For example, “In 2015 I want to walk at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.” Second, make it measurable. For example, “I will do this for four weeks straight and reevaluate to make sure I can meet this goal.” If you find you are struggling, explore reasons why, and be honest. Is it because you are trying to make this happen at 5 pm when you get off work and you do not have energy? Find a different time and test the theory for another 4 weeks. Third, is it achievable, this goes along with reevaluating your goals every 4 weeks. If 5 pm does not work, try walking during your lunch hour. Fourth, is your goal relevant? Why is this goal significant to you? Finally, is your goal time-bound? You’ve made your New Year’s resolution for 2015, so how will you hold yourself accountable for 365 days? Break your goals down into smaller time-bound fragments; continue to come back to your goal to evaluate your own progress.

Be honest with yourself, allow for set-backs and do not give up! Make 2015 a year to remember with your healthy eating and active living goals. Make them simple and smart, check your progress and keep up the good work! Visit our downloads page for our SMART Goal Setting Worksheet and get started now!

By Ashley J. Ormson

PC Can Seeks Community Input for Walking Maps

Over 10 years ago Healthy People Portage County and Ministry Health created a walking map of downtown Stevens Point with many historical landmarks highlighted.  This fall, Ministry, PC Can, and UWSP decided to create an updated version to print this spring and make available to support physical activity.  This spring, we also plan to develop several themed maps with routes that highlight different features of the communities in Portage County.  Examples of themes include local food, natural resource conservation, arts, and any other theme that community members suggest that can be worked into a series of short-distance loops that begin at locations that are accessible by car or bike or are located near major employment centers.  We also want to add mobile device features to generate ongoing interaction between walkers and the routes.

Note that all the routes depicted here will be integrated into a fold out map with all the info you can see now plus details about historical sites.


St. Michael’s Hospital/ Schmeekle Reserve Walk


Green Circle/ Bukolt Ave. Walk


Fremont/ Main/ Clark/ Illinois Walk


Downtown/ Water/ Church Walk

Please click here to submit your suggestions and ideas – Thank you!

At Thursday’s meeting, we will be gathering input primarily on the updated walking map that highlights building of historical significance.  If you also have ideas on the future maps and mobile device features, we’d love to have your thoughts now.  Be sure to note your interest in being part of the project planning efforts next year.

Click on a map and let us know what you think of the starting points, distances, and different versions.  Also, do you think such a map would be useful to the audiences you are encouraging to be physically active?