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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

OHCE members take losing seriously

There are a number of women in Cleveland County who are a bunch of losers – and they are perfectly happy with that.

Brenda Hill-Alta, Extension educator in Cleveland County, discusses the muscle groups OHCE members will use while doing various exercises.

These women, all members of the organization Oklahoma Home and Community Education, collectively have lost about 450 pounds over the last 18 months, thanks to a commitment to healthy eating and exercise.

These ladies do not spend four hours a day in the gym, nor do their meals consist of a few lettuce leaves with diet dressing or the latest fad diet. Instead, they have taken a practical approach toward healthy living and are accomplishing their goals by making subtle, yet effective, lifestyle changes.

Brenda Hill-Alta, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Youth Development and county Extension director in Cleveland County, is a certified instructor in tai chi and arthritis land exercises.

OHCE members work all of their muscles during exercise class, from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes.

“I learned about these classes through an in-service I attended. OHCE programming is geared toward continuing education in all aspects of home and community life,” Hill-Alta said. “Learning more about exercise and healthy eating fits right in with what this group does on a daily basis. In fact, one of the OHCE goals for 2017 is healthy eating and active living.”

There are about a dozen women who participate in the weekly exercise classes that take place at the Cleveland County OSU Cooperative Extension Office in Norman. Each set of classes last six to eight weeks. Currently, the group is working on exercises to help with the effects of arthritis. When they start the tai chi class, those exercises will help them with balance.

Members of Oklahoma Home and Community Education in Cleveland County work on their balance at their weekly exercise sessions.

Hill-Alta said they do not need fancy gym equipment to be successful. One simple exercise involves wadding up a piece of paper with one hand, then flattening it out with one hand.

“This simple exercise works every muscle in your hands,” she said. “Strengthening your hand muscles help them open jars, hold objects and has many other benefits. The exercises we do helps them with everyday tasks such as walking, eating, standing, getting out of bed, getting into and out of a car, you name it. We focus on all of our muscle groups.”

The various exercises in each class are focused on a specific part of the body. Rotating the shoulders forward and backward helps participants with reaching and dressing. Hill-Alta also takes the women through exercises that work on posture, which is beneficial to better breathing.

Not only have the women been dropping pounds, they also indicate they are getting good reports from their doctors. Some have been able to stop taking certain medications, while other say their arthritis symptoms have diminished.

Shirley Burnett, a member of the Hopewell OHCE group, said she pays a lot more attention to portion sizes now than she used to and uses several different strategies to help keep her on track.

“I’ve downsized the plates we use and I also portion out snacks into single-serving sizes,” Burnett said. “Something else I do to help keep portions under control is share meals. I also portion food into divided plates for later in the week. This helps me stick to my eating plan and saves time, too.”

Another benefit Burnett has discovered is she’s staying out of the hospital. Previously she would be hospitalized several times a year for various health issues, but now she’s feeling much better and has not been hospitalized for quite some time.

Meal sharing also is something Margaret Barbour does.

“When I go out to eat I cut restaurant meals in half,” said Barbour, who is a member of the Friendship OHCE group. “I also don’t order fries with my meals anymore.”

Barbour said it can be hard to cut out sweets and desserts, but she’s able to satisfy her sweet tooth by taking just two or three bites of a dessert.

“That’s all I need to be satisfied,” she said.

Karen Pospisil, a member of Hopewell OHCE, said she love sandwiches, but has taken to making lettuce wraps instead of the traditional sandwich on bread.

All of the women say they have found other ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. Now, instead of circling the parking lot at the store waiting for a spot up close to open up, they purposely park farther from the store’s entrance. In addition, they often take the stairs instead of riding the elevator.

“When I first started this program, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath,” said Martha Aughe, Friendship OHCE member. “Now I can do three or four flights without stopping.”

Overall, the women say their lives have improved. They feel better and have more energy to continue their exercise program. Some of them have even been able to discontinue high blood pressure medicine.

Hill-Alta said not only does she enjoy teaching the class and watching the members succeed in their weight-loss goals and developing a healthier lifestyle, it also helps keep them involved in other aspects of OHCE.

“This class really keeps them interested in meeting their goals. They’re all so supportive of one another,” Hill-Alta said. “Not only are they succeeding, but I get as much out of it as they do. I love my job and I look forward to my time with this group every week.”

For more information about OHCE activities in your area, contact your county OSU Extension office.



Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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