DETROIT — Loretta Moore looked at herself in the mirror one morning and didn’t like what she saw.
“I was ridiculously overweight,” Moore said. “I couldn’t get into most of my clothes anymore.”
Standing 5-feet-4, Moore weighed 252 pounds.
That image was all it took for Moore, 56, of Detroit to start walking regularly.
It took a funeral for Jodi Davis.
At the funeral of a relative, she watched as the woman’s son cried at his mother’s casket. The woman who had died was in her early 40s.
“I thought that could be me” in the casket, said Davis, 45, of Coloma in western Michigan. Davis, too, was extremely obese. She is 5-feet-6 and weighed 300 pounds.
Although they live in different parts of the state, Moore and Davis took similar steps to get their weight and health under control.
They began walking regularly and eliminated a lot of sugary and high-fat foods from their diets.
Moore shed 69 pounds in the past two years and is working toward losing more. And she no longer takes medications to control her once-high blood pressure.
After dropping 162 pounds over 16 months, Davis has maintained her weight for about 10 years. She became a healthy living advocate for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and is featured on the cover of the recently released “The Joy Fit Club: Cookbook, Diet Plan & Inspiration” (Wiley, $27.99) by Joy Bauer, a nutrition expert on NBC’s “Today” show.
Moore and Davis are proof that getting fit starts by taking it one step at a time.
Health and fitness experts say that walking is one of the best ways to improve your health — and that when the weather is warm, it’s a great time to get started.
“There are clear physical, emotional and social benefits of walking,” said Victor Katch, an avid walker and University of Michigan movement science professor.
Walking reduces depression and wards off or slows the progression of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, Katch said. And one of the best things about walking as a major form of exercise is that almost everyone can do it.
“Walking is easy to do. It engages most of the major muscles of the body. It’s good for balance and internal functioning,” he said.
And, unlike some exercises, you don’t have to go anywhere special to do it, said Katch, who walks daily — sometimes twice or three times on a really good day. “I’m a mover,” he said. “I’d like to say I’m a mover and a shaker, but really, I’m just a mover.”
Katch and other walking advocates say two of the best ways to stick to a regimen is to have a partner or group, to walk in places that inspire and encourage you and to set a goal — such as walking a 5K or a half-marathon.
The scenery, improved health and group support are among the attractions for the Detroit River Walkers, a group of almost 1,000 people 60 and older who walk Tuesday and Thursday mornings on the Detroit RiverWalk.
“My strength and endurance have improved,” said Edythe Hayden Friley, 65, who has been walking with the River Walkers for five years. “And it’s good for me emotionally. You hear so much bad stuff about the city. But here, there’s such peace, tranquility and beauty along the water. It just makes you feel good.”
Moore and Davis suggest walking at a brisk pace; as they lost weight, they were able to walk faster.
And Davis discovered other benefits besides weight loss.
“I have much more energy,” she said. “My thoughts are clearer and I sleep better. Whenever I’m feeling stressed, I get outside and stomp it off.”
• For walking trails: www.traillink.com
• To find other walkers in your area: http://walkers.meetup.com
• To find walks, both competitive and noncompetitive, and charity events: www.active.com