A few steps a day can go a long way toward maintaining your health.
That was the message Saturday as 200 people gathered at the Galleria in Roseville for a mile-long walk around the mall led by "Biggest Loser" winner Olivia Ward, who lost 129 pounds during Season 11 of the NBC television show.
"There is no magic. There is no secret," Ward told the crowd, noting that the key to weight loss is exercise. "Small manageable changes can yield big results."
The 5-foot-10-inch Ward weighed 261 pounds when she started a weight-loss regimen on "Biggest Loser." The heft placed her body mass index at 37.4, which is considered obese. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal.
Ward, 37, said the first 60 pounds came off just from walking. Eventually, she was able to shed another 69 pounds through a rigorous eight-hour exercise regimen that went on for nine months. "I was walking 15 to 20 miles a day," she said.
The Saturday morning event was part of an effort by Kaiser Permanente to help people incorporate walking into their daily lives. Kaiser Permanente Medical Center of Roseville organizes a doctor-led walk around the Galleria every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.
"Walking raises your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories all the time," said Dr. Chris Palkowski, physician in chief at Kaiser in Roseville.
For Bobbi Knapp, 72, socializing is part of the fun in walking.
"We make friends with people and encourage each other to be healthy," she said.
The outreach comes at a critical time for those fighting the country's growing obesity epidemic. California's obesity rate among adults stands at 23.8 percent, while the national rate is 35.7 percent, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ward recalled how she had always been "bigger" than everyone else. At age 35, she was on the verge of developing diabetes and high cholesterol. That's when she applied to be a contestant on the "Biggest Loser."
Yvonne Tyler, 51, of Auburn was one of many who came to the Galleria hoping to draw inspiration from Ward, who now crisscrosses the country as a motivational speaker.
"I want to know how to jump-start my weight loss," Tyler said.
After Ward spoke, she led the group on a mile-long walk on both floors of the mall. Halfway through, Donna Frost, 52, was breaking a sweat.
"I plan on coming here more often to walk," the Lincoln resident said, trying to catch her breath.
"As long as you don't stop by the stores," her husband, Rich, added.