February 04, 2022
Peg Bradford has used her personal health experiences to inspire others to take better care of their health. In doing so, the South Jersey resident has created quite an online community.
In 2011, Bradford launched the the Facebook group "Steps to Good Health." After struggling with weight gain during menopause, Bradford lost 75 pounds and wanted to help others with their own weight loss journeys.
The group began with 100 members but has grown to include more than 20,000 people, Bradford said. The group not only focuses on weight loss, but also improving everyday health. She and her members share daily tips, recipes, workouts and words of encouragement.
Sometimes, Bradford reaches out to companies to arrange giveaways for healthy snacks and fitness equipment for her members.
Bradford, 56, of Sewell, Gloucester County, doesn't set specific step challenges for her members. Instead, she simply encourages people to get a fitness tracker and start setting their own daily step goals.
She tells her members to just take one step at a time – that just like you do not gain weight over night, you also don't love overnight either.
"Be realistic. Take slow, small steps," Bradford said. "My members say that is what helps them the most – small, realistic goals.
"There is no judgement. You can just be yourself. People love the group because it is so positive. Many of the members have built relationships offline as well."
Audrey O'Donald, 56, of Virginia Beach, joined the group five years ago. She was exploring different fitness groups and it came up as a suggested group.
"I just love it. It is very encouraging," she said.
O'Donald said members have varying fitness levels and are at different points on their weight loss journeys, but that the members cheer everyone on.
"Yesterday I had 20,000 steps while another member had 3,000 steps. We celebrate everyone's victory. We are all doing our best," she said.
Kathie Kelly, 56, one of the moderators of the group, has been friends with Bradford since high school and now lives in Virginia. She joined the group to help her friend out and to get healthier.
She said she loves how the group's members really care about what is going on in each other's lives.
"It is not just about steps, but life as well," Kelly said. "It is truly a lifestyle."
The group has helped Bradford, too.
After her brother died from a massive heart attack and she suffered through a COVID-19 infection, Bradford had started to gain some weight back. She also was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. But she said sharing these difficulties with her group members has helped her get back on track.
"I am just an everyday woman sharing her story," she said. "I just want people to know they are not alone. There is support available."