Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Provides Motivation for Resolutions

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? Cooperative Extension’s 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.

To access the SSHW Challenge, follow the “Challenges” link on the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Web site at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/.  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 SSHW 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.  SSHW was built around a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies.  The Challenge was originally developed in a “paper and pencil” format with printed worksheets to track daily points and is now available online for participation nationwide.

The SSHW Challenge is based on the performance of ten 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,” notes Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

The five daily health and nutrition practices are: eat at least 4 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 SSHW 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 latter activity, for both health and personal finances, can be accomplished by visiting Web sites, attending seminars, or by reading, listening to, or viewing media reports. 

SSHW Challenge participants can also decide to replace one or more of the ten daily health and personal finance activities with unique personal challenges.  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. “Adapting the traditional SSHW Challenge format makes it more “personal” for participants and provides an opportunity to practice new behaviors if they are already doing the 10 pre-selected activities,” explained Dr. O’Neill.

As participants enter daily points, they will see point totals for each day of the week and for each of the ten 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 Web site to their patrons and create local SSHW Challenges for specified time periods, like five or six weeks, with prizes and participant recognition,” notes O’Neill. “People can submit their point totals from the SSHW Web site directly to local Challenge sponsors. Doing even one of the ten recommended daily practices is a great way to get started on the path to better health and improved financial security.”

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/.

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