Lacing Up For Heart Health: BIDMC and AHA Celebrate National Walking Day with Lifestyle Change Awards

Lifestyle Change Award recipients gather at BIDMC as part of the local National Walking Day Celebration.
Lifestyle Change Award recipients gather at BIDMC as part of the local National Walking Day Celebration on April 2, 2014.

Today, thousands of individuals, companies and organizations across the country have been lacing up their sneakers and taking a stroll to celebrate National Walking Day – a movement aimed at encouraging individuals to push back from their desks, stand up from their chairs, lace up their sneakers, and go for a 30-minute walk to put their heart health first! In Boston, a number of area residents were recognized  for making  dramatic lifestyle changes – such as losing 90 pounds and taking on rigorous exercise programs — that help will keep their hearts healthy.

To call special attention to National Walking Day, the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the American Heart Association (AHA)  teamed up to honor the winners of the first-annual Lifestyle Change Awards competition. The awards ceremony this morning, at BIDMC’s Tanger Be Well Fitness Studio, recognized a dozen Boston-area individuals, including a pair of identical twins and a Boston middle school student, among others.

“We think it’s important to recognize individuals who have made commitments to healthy lifestyle changes like walking.  These people serve as role models to others,” said Kamal R. Khabbaz, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at BIDMC and Co-Chair of BIDMC’s 2014 Walking Campaign along with Susan Wornick, former anchor of WCVB-TV5.

The awards were handed out by Khabbaz, Wornick and cardiologist Joseph P. Kannam, MD, chief of cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham and medical director of the BIDMC Walking Club. This year’s winners include:

  •  Jennifer and Kelly McCarthy – These twins from Mansfield, Mass., lost 90 pounds each by eating healthier and  participating in 5K and 10K road races, half marathons, and a triathlon. To inspire others to get healthy, they started a fitness blog called “Twins Take on Life.”
  • Antoinette Chabilal – A registered nurse at BIDMC and a Dorchester resident, Chabilal lost several dress sizes (from a size 22 to a size 14) and significantly reduced her blood pressure by exercising five days per week and incorporating healthy foods into her diet.
  • Mike Rubino – Rubino, the CFO of Digital Lumens from Shrewsbury, Mass., decided to change his life after a cardiac arrest in 2012. By exercising, reducing his sugar intake, and using stress management techniques, he lost 55 pounds.
  • Student Award Winner:  Grace Shipley – Shipley, a seventh grade student at McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, lost 20 pounds by “eating less junk food,” participating in her school’s walking program and its double-dutch jump rope team, and promoting her heart-healthy lifestyle through the school’s Wellness Council.

AHA and BIDMC judges also selected seven Honorable Mentions: Joseph Feaster of Stoughton, Kenneth Greenwood of West Roxbury, Paula Petschek of Bedford, Tanya Crews of Braintree, Dr. Jonathan Smith of Wayland, Dennis Coogan of Weymouth, and Jordan Rich, a WBZ radio personality from Framingham.

Although it was not a requirement, almost all of the nominees stressed the importance of walking as part of their exercise routines. They mentioned that walking is a convenient and no-cost way to promote heart health.  BIDMC hopes to welcome all nominees as new recruits to its popular Walks of Life campaign.

“There was a high level of competition as all of the nominees had compelling stories and inspiring results,” said Dr. Khabbaz. “We hope to expand this program in the future and encourage people to turn sedentary lifestyles into active ones.”

According to Dr. Khabbaz, heart disease and stroke continue to be the nation’s number one and number four killers, and a startling 66 percent of Americans are overweight.  But the good news, he says, is that physically active people can reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease by incorporating walking into their day.”

Why walking, you ask? Because walking has one of the lowest drop-out rates for all physical activity. Plus, studies have shown that for every hour of vigorous walking, a person could gain up to two hours of life expectancy.

Today is just the beginning! Start building time into each and every day to go for a brisk walk. It will help clear your mind, help you distress and do your body good.Grab your sneakers, lace up and get moving toward a healthier heart with a 30 minute brisk walk.  For more information on National Walking Day, visit

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