- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - For six hours on Jan. 7, Hy-Vee shoppers found a huge reminder of their New Year’s resolutions sitting in the parking lot.

Then again, it was hard to miss the Healthy You Mobile, a converted recreational vehicle offering a health fair on wheels. The vehicle’s painted exterior carried messages such as fruit, dumb bells and a measuring tape.

Hy-Vee dietitian Elizabeth Volzke greeted passers-by braving frosty temperatures.

“Would you like to come inside?” she asked. “We can take your height and weight, and I’ll answer any questions.”

The mobile represents the partnership of Hy-Vee and Avera Health in promoting wellness and preventative health, the Yankton Press and Dakotan (https://bit.ly/2jQU22Q ) reported. Launched in 2013, the effort has become so popular that six vehicles now travel an eight-state region.

“It’s all about keeping people healthy,” Volzke said. “More and more, the focus is on wellness than illness.”

She finds that’s particularly true during January, filled with New Year’s resolutions and good intentions. The store and mobile feature the theme “A New Year, A New You.”

“But some people set totally unrealistic goals,” she said. “I hear people say they’re going to lose 15 pounds by the end of the month. That’s just not going to happen in most cases, and people usually get discouraged and quit.”

Two visitors to the mobile suggested not taking on a new health resolution alone, whether it’s diet and exercise or efforts to stop smoking and curb drinking.

“I think it makes a big difference if you have a buddy,” Avera Health media relations director Jay Gravholt.

Dr. Byron Nielsen of Yankton Medical Clinic agreed.

“There’s something to be said about accountability and encouraging each other,” he said. “Exercising with someone makes it more enjoyable, and the time passes more quickly.”

A journey starts with a single step, Nielsen noted.

“It’s better to start small and then build up,” he said.

Sometimes, a person becomes too rigid with a resolution or lifestyle, Volzke said. She told of one person who severely limited caloric intake.

“At that point, your body thinks you’re starving and starts storing up fat,” she said. “You also have people working out and still gaining weight. It’s because they’re building muscle, which weighs more than fat.”

The Healthy You Mobile can provide information to set people on the right path, Gravholt said. The mobile made its Yankton debut last August during Riverboat Days.

“It’s a really great way for people to get quick health screenings,” he said. “We want it out where people can see it and can take advantage of it. We give out free health information, and the tests are low cost or no cost.”

This particular mobile makes stops in Yankton, Vermillion and LeMars, Iowa, Volzke said. In that way, the bus can make a tight loop among three closely located stores.

The Healthy You Mobile offers a wide variety of services, Volzke said. The list includes checks or tests for cholesterol, hemoglobin and blood sugar. The program also offers flu shots and samplings in the store’s Health Market.

In addition, Volzke used a person’s height, weight and age to determine the body mass index (BMI).

However, she warned against becoming too reliant on any one figure, such as the BMI or the scale. An individual needs a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle, she said.

“These numbers are good starting points, but they’re not the gold standard. It may not take into account things like whether you have bigger bones,” she said. “And some people become really bothered by the number on the scale.”

Sometimes, it only takes a few tweaks, she noted. But those tweaks can loom large in today’s society.

“Everything is built for convenience,” she said. “We have escalators in stores and elevators to our apartments. We don’t walk to school or work.”

In turn, people often want instant gratification, she said.

“We want a pill, or we see these fad diets,” she said. “All you may need to do is eat more fruits and vegetables. And every 30 minutes of TV has 11 minutes of commercials, so do simple exercises during the commercials.”

When it comes to diet, more nutritious food can remain affordable, Volzke said.

“I had a four-ounce salmon filet and a half-bag of vegetables for $2.76, and I still had the other half of the veggies for another meal,” she said. “It’s so easy to buy snacks and other food, but you can buy nutritious things on sale. And when you think about it, a poor diet costs you more in terms of your health down the line.”

One woman who stopped at the mobile posed the classic holiday baking question. “What do I do about all those cookies that people bring and just lay around?” she asked.

Volzke smiled and answered in one word. “Willpower,” she said.

After the woman departed, Volzke noted the importance of such lifestyle choices in preventing or slashing the risk of many diseases.

“When it comes to exercise, where you live makes a huge importance,” she said. “It makes such a difference if you have lit sidewalks, green space and parks. Yankton is excellent in that regard.”

Nielsen pointed to the abundance of Yankton’s outdoor offerings.

“It’s important to be active, even something like just walking around the community,” he said. “We have all types of bike trails in Yankton, and we have so many outdoor activities that are cheap or free. There are all sorts of ways to get out and do (things).”

The current cold weather can lead to more sedentary lifestyles as people stay indoors, Nielsen said. Exercise can be as simple as light weights or moving arms and legs. Even people who work at desks all day need to stand up and move.

Family history can play a major role, particularly for diabetes, cancer and heart disease, Nielsen said. Early detection can catch diseases early and head off major problems,

Such care can also prove a good financial move, Gravholt said. “It can lower your health care costs overall,” he said.

In addition, Volzke pointed to the importance of early and updated vaccinations.

“It’s the craze right now of not vaccinating children because of fears it will cause ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or autism. That just won’t happen,” she said. “And then, people don’t vaccinated and we’re seeing the return of diseases like polio, measles and certain childhood diseases.”

Good habits can start at any age, with Hy-Vee’s “Simple Fix” program teaching young people the basics of preparing healthy meals. Volzke also offers free grocery store tours, while other services are offered for a fee.

And for those who missed it, the Healthy You Mobile may be returning soon to a Hy-Vee store near you, Volzke said.

“I hope the mobile comes back for a follow-up visit in February, which is Healthy Heart Month, and then once a month after that,” she said.

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/

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