Grove City Christian's Rebecca Jeffries takes lots of little steps toward improving health
Two years ago, as she struggled to recover from the after effects of breaking her right foot, Rebecca Jeffries knew something had to change.
She already had undergone two surgeries to repair the damage to her foot that resulted when she continued to walk for more than three weeks before discovering she had, in fact, sustained multiple fractures.
Jeffries broke her foot in 2014, when she slipped on a wet floor. The pain grew worse until she feared she might lose the ability to walk, she said.
Jeffries' foot pain was made worse by her rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
She also weighed about 350 pounds.
A pair of surgeries in 2017 provided scant relief.
"I knew something had to change. I needed to live a healthier lifestyle, get active and improve my diet," Jeffries, 39, said.
On Jan. 1, 2019, she resolved to be more proactive about improving her health.
It was a big step to take, and it has involved taking thousands of little steps each and every day.
Jeffries committed to a regimen of walking that has increased over the past two years.
"I started out setting a goal of walking 3,000 steps each day. I thought that would be a good way to start," she said.
She now walks an average of 15,000 steps each day, the equivalent of about 7.1 miles.
Walking provides her with an opportunity to clear her mind and think things through, she said.
"It's really a great stress reliever for me," she said. "Now I'm reliving that stress by doing something healthy instead of reaching for a container of ice cream or a bag of potato chips."
Reaching the mark of walking 15,000 steps a day has been easier to accomplish because she did it gradually, Jeffries said.
She spends about two hours each day walking, she said.
"I walk in the morning; I walk in the afternoon; I walk in the evening," Jeffries said.
On bad-weather days, she uses a treadmill in her basement to help reach her daily goal, she said.
Jeffries serves as assistant principal of the middle school and high school at Grove City Christian School.
"I get to school about an hour before anyone else, and I start walking," she said. "As I walk, I'm praying for our students. I'm praying for our staff, and I'm praying for our school."
She often treads up and down the school's worship area because its aisles provide plenty of walking space.
During the high school's flex period held during fifth period, Jeffries takes another walk.
Students are participating in a study hall during the period, and when they are attending school in-person, Jeffries said, she'll ask if any students would like to accompany her on her midday jaunt.
The west Columbus resident takes another walk at the end of the day, and one of her favorite treks is along the Camp Chase Trail, the multiuse path located near her home.
If she has to work late at Grove City Christian, Jeffries said, she'll take a walk that starts from the school's Hoover Road campus, often heading to Stringtown Road.
"Oh, you might see me walking all over Grove City," she said.
All of her walking has paid off for Jeffries.
She has lost 140 pounds and wants to lose at least another 10 pounds to reach a weight below 200.
"Alumni come back to the school, and they have a hard time recognizing me," Jeffries said. "I don't look like the person they remember."
After a third surgery in May 2020, the pain in her foot has greatly improved, as has her arthritis, she said.
It's because she isn't carrying all those extra pounds, Jeffries said.
"I just feel so much better than I used to," she said. "I have so much more energy."
All of her walking also has paid off for Grove City Christian School.
Superintendent Jim McMillian entered Jeffries in the Health Action Council's Step It Up Challenge, a competition held in partnership with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
During the 10-day competition period in October, Jeffries increased the pace of her walking and logged 804,801 steps, or about 381 miles.
She emerged as the winner for the OHSAA Central District, earning her school $2,000.
The Health Action Council is a Cleveland-based nonprofit organization that works with employers to enhance human and financial health through group purchasing, education and health improvement, said Amy Swanson, health improvement project and communications director for Health Action Council.
The Step It Up Challenge in October was a new program designed for OHSAA-member schools, she said.
"We wanted to create a program where the participants would encourage and serve as a model for students to be more active and make healthier choices," Swanson said.
More than 100 schools participated in the inaugural challenge throughout Ohio's six OHSAA districts, she said.
The winner in each district earned $2,000 for their school, and the overall state winner earned a $3,000 award for their building, Swanson said.
The challenge was sponsored by Fitbit, which is developing a platform schools can use to set up a local Step It Up Challenge in their buildings, she said.
The Health Action Council will present another statewide challenge beginning Feb. 1, Swanson said. The second challenge will expand to 21 days.
"February is Heart Health Month, and we're holding the challenge then to celebrate and promote the month and being heart healthy," she said.
Grove City Christian staff still are determining how the school will use the $2,000 award, Jeffries said, but the general idea is to help fund some type of health-related project at the school, possibly the creation of a sensory path.