In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

April 12, 2016

After Wake-Up Call, Walking Leads Woman Down the Road to Better Health

By In the Loop
Tammy Ruby started with one small step to improve her health and now encourages other to start walking.

Courtesy of Jeff Westcott Photography.

Tammy Ruby knew she should make some changes. She was overweight, took medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, and had a strong family history of heart disease. But, as she tells Florida's First Coast News, it was losing her 38-year-old brother to a heart attack that finally pushed her into action. "It was time for me to get serious about my own heart health," she tells us. But even though she was motivated, Tammy felt overwhelmed by the changes she felt she needed to make. So she decided to start with "one small step." Literally. "I knew walking would be the easiest first step," Tammy, a medical secretary in Sleep Medicine at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, tells us.

That was eight years ago. Today, Tammy's 50 pounds lighter. She no longer takes medication for high blood pressure or diabetes. She's walked a half marathon and has added strength training and other forms of cardio to her six-day-a-week exercise habit. And last week, she shared the story of how she got from there to here during an appearance on First Coast News to promote National Walking Day. During the segment, she joined Vandana Bhide, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic, to talk about the many benefits of hitting the pavement, from lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels to losing weight and improving your mood.

Tammy tells us she noticed those benefits right away. If she walked close to bedtime, she says, she "would sleep great and wake up more energetic and clear headed." Walking earlier in the evening left her with "more energy to get things done," she says. "I really did notice with activity how much clearer your mind feels." (We should probably try that.) Tammy also found she had more energy for her hobbies, including singing. Though she'd been in her church choir for many years, exercising and losing weight has allowed her to take on new roles — including singing in the Jacksonville Passion Play and helping lead worship services. "I would have never had the stamina" for either before, she tells us.

Today, Tammy continues to walk, hit the gym or exercise at home most days of the week. And she says it all started with that single step. It's a move she encourages everyone to make. "Just take that first small step," she says. "Don't look at the huge mountain of changes in front of you. Just take that first step, and you'll be surprised at what you can do and how good you will feel. It will energize you, relax you, and improve your life. You are worth 20 minutes a day for yourself." (We couldn't agree more. Also, we'll be right back.)

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Tags: Dr Vandana Bhide, Employee Stories, Tammy Ruby

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