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NMSU encourages New Mexicans to participate in Small Steps to Health, Wealth challenge

Got New Year's Resolutions to improve your health and/or personal finances? For example, losing weight, increased physical activity, reducing debt, or saving money?


New Mexico State University's Extension Family and Consumer Science department is encouraging New Mexicans to join a national online program to help accomplish their health and personal finance resolutions.

"The Small Steps to Health and Wealth program has two free resources to motivate Americans to achieve their personal self-improvement goals: an online Challenge and a 132-page workbook that is available for downloading," said Fahzy Abdul-Rahman, NMSU Extension family resource management specialist.

To access the SSHW Challenge, follow the "Challenges" link on the Small Steps to Health and Wealth website at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/. First click on "SSHW Online Individual Challenge." Then click on "Register an Account," set up a user name and password, and download a simple one-page user's guide with instructions about how to proceed. Click on "My Account" and "My Challenges" and "Enter a New Challenge," and enroll in the Challenge titled "SSHW 2014 Non-Competitive Challenge."

The second Cooperative Extension resource is the "Small Steps to Health and Wealth" workbook. Individual chapters can be downloaded for free from http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/. A paperback workbook containing 44 worksheets is also available for $19.50 plus shipping. Quantity discounts are available. For more information about the SSHW workbook content and pricing, see http://palspublishing.cals.cornell.edu/.

"The Challenge is part of 'Small Steps to Health and Wealth,' a national Cooperative Extension program developed to motivate Americans to take action to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances," Abdul-Rahman said. "The program was built around a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies."

The Challenge is based on the performance of 10 recommended practices on a daily basis: five that involve health and nutrition and five that involve financial management. Ten points are given for performing each one for a maximum of 700 points per week.

"The Challenge is a great way to convert ambitious New Year's resolutions, like losing weight and saving money, into daily action steps," Abdul-Rahman said.

The five daily health and nutrition practices are: eat at least four cups of fruits and vegetables; get at least 30 minutes of physical activity; drink water or unsweetened beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages; track 10,000 or more steps walking with a pedometer; and learn something new about health and nutrition.

The five daily financial management practices included in the Challenge are: save a $1 bill or more and/or pocket change; invest $5 or more per day, including automated retirement savings plan deposits; track money spent throughout the day; eat lunch prepared at home; and learn something new about personal finance.

The last activity, for both health and personal finances, can be accomplished by visiting websites, attending seminars, or by reading, listening to or viewing media reports.

"Challenge participants can also decide to replace one or more of the 10 daily health and personal finance activities with unique personal challenges," Abdul-Rahman said. "For example, getting eight hours of sleep or eating at least two servings of whole grain foods instead of one of the health actions listed above."

As participants enter daily points, they will see point totals for each day of the week and for each of the 10 activities described above. They'll also see a bar graph that compares their personal scores to average scores of everyone else participating in the Challenge.

"We are encouraging Cooperative Extension offices, hospitals, media outlets and health promotion organizations to promote the online challenge website to their patrons and create local SSHW Challenges for specified time periods, like five or six weeks, with prizes and participant recognition," Abdul-Rahman said. "People can submit their point totals from the SSHW website directly to local Challenge sponsors. Doing even one of the 10 recommended daily practices is a great way to get started on the path to better health and improved financial security."