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February 6, 2014

ThedaCare Pedometer Challenge

Last fall, I came up with a project to change that – I wanted to get to know the members of the media who cover ThedaCare a little bit better and have them get to know me, too. And if I could help them improve their health a little bit – that was a bonus!

Last fall, ThedaCare's Megan Wicox challenged the media to a pedometer challenge.  Megan has thrown out another challenge for 2014, which begins next week; watch for weekly updates.

Part of my job title is “media relations,” but often it feels like a one-way street: I send out news releases and take calls to set up interviews with our doctors or other staff members. Last fall, I came up with a project to change that – I wanted to get to know the members of the media who cover ThedaCare a little bit better and have them get to know me, too. And if I could help them improve their health a little bit – that was a bonus!

I looked to ThedaCare’s own successful pedometer challenge for inspiration. I decided to connect with the many members of the media who cover ThedaCare, as well as the local chambers of commerce who provide us with support, and ask them to enter a pedometer challenge. I sent them all a pedometer and asked them to keep track of their steps over an eight week period. The goal would be to log more than 10,000 steps a day. Each Monday morning, they would email in their results along with some of their successes and failures. In all, they logged more than 7.5 million miles over the eight weeks.

My hope was that the challenge would not only strengthen my relationship with members of the media, but also help them get healthier by encouraging more physical activity.

While the challenge fell in the middle of the winter holiday season with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all on the calendar, that did not deter the more than 20 people who signed up to log their steps. In fact, it gave them more motivation to get out and get moving. Many people reported walking extra the day before Thanksgiving or even that morning since they knew their calorie consumption would be higher. By wearing the pedometer and reporting their results, there was an accountability factor, too.

I was so excited with the results – one WBAY cameraman, Bill Kumbalek, was so excited he logged more than 11,000 steps in one day thanks to vigorous snowshoeing – and that I was able to get to know a little bit more about the participants, such as some of their favorite activities and what was going on with their lives.

The members of the media loved it, too! Many used it as inspiration to get more active, especially during the holiday season. Tammy Elliott, the WBAY Channel 2 morning anchor, was so excited about the program that she even talked about it on air and showed off the pedometer. She also told me the challenged opened her eyes to how little she actually moves on a daily basis and what a struggle it was to get to 10,000 steps daily.

“I had no idea I would not reach 10,000 steps a day just with my normal routine. I found only did I reach and get beyond 10,000 steps a day if I actually went out for a walk. I did all the little extras, parking farther away, taking the stairs, taking an extra lap around the store or the long way to get somewhere. I even ran up and down our stairs at home when my kids were sick on the couch and I wasn’t able to get out for a walk,” she says, adding that she is still wearing her pedometer now that the challenge is over.

Here’s a sampling of what the walkers had to say about the challenge:

  • “Before the challenge started, I was thinking I got in a good amount of walking because I was out and about all day meeting with businesses during the work day. Wearing the pedometer showed me the truth – that I only got in 2,000 to 3,000 steps in a day.  Even though I am out and about every day,  I spend a lot of time driving so not getting in steps and learned I was not as active as I thought I was. I also learned that if you really set your mind to walking you can reach your goals.”  – Kevin Jacobs, Waupaca County Post
  • “The pedometer REALLY was an eye opener, making me step back and say, I have to make it MORE of a priority to take care of myself – selfishly, make time for me because I count, too. The other thing I found is – during my weeks I was a Supergirl, I felt better. The more you do, the more you want to do. The key is getting into that routine and holding firm.” – Judy Steffes, WTCH radio in Shawano
  • “I knew I wasn't as active as should be, but this challenge showed me must how inactive I am. The results would have been different if the challenge took place in the summer. But as it is, it opened my eyes to the need for me to get more active. I think it would be interesting to do this same challenge with the same people for eight weeks in the summer.” – Bert Lehman, Journal Community Publications
  • “After the challenge, I'll keep at it on a regular basis, and continue to wear the pedometer to keep the 10,000 steps as a minimum requirement.  I'm also interested to see how many steps I get in when I start golfing in the spring.” – Jack Berry, WDUX news director
  • “I learned in this challenge that I sit too much at work. With my morning workout routine and running around getting my children off to school, I would get to work at 9 a.m. most days with almost 6,000 steps in. Then I would find that I was leaving the office at 3 p.m. with only 1,000 steps more (or less).” – Kelly Clussman, Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • “I decided to take the challenge because I was curious how much walking I did just by doing my everyday routine, and I had planned to start working out more. Unfortunately, with vacations, work, and the holidays, that didn't happen. It's disappointing, because I'm sure my totals were among the lowest, if not the lowest, but at least now I have a baseline to build on. I was conscious about my daily steps, and I did some small things to get more walking in, like parking a little farther away.” – Mike Kemmeter, WHBY radio station news director
  • “I learned that even though there were days that I did not do as well as others, I still did something because I basically felt better. I used to be an avid walker and as the years went by and life changes I just lost control of my life. I now have my control back. I feel better after walking, I'm sleeping better at night and I have more energy!” Jackie Baldwin, assistant at the Clintonville Chamber of Commerce
  • “I am also going to keep wearing the pedometer because it really  is an incentive for me to get my butt on the treadmill or walk from the back of the parking lot even in winter. I wanted to take the challenge because I gained weight and needed to lose it. I did lose some weight… but not enough.” — Chelly Boutott, WFRV TV Channel 5
  • “What I learned is just cleaning house, being fairly active during the day and walking some really does not get you close to the 10,000 steps.  I was amazed at how much I had to do in a day to achieve that goal.  There was no way that I could hit the 10,000 steps without doing 30 minutes on the treadmill each day.  That is what it took to reach my goal.” – Sandy Yeager, Clintonville Chamber of Commerce director
  • “I learned just how out of shape I was. After two years of not working out at all, my lung capacity and muscle tone are both way down.  Having to do 2-4 miles a night on the treadmill helped my get my lungs back. I also learned that my job is very sedentary…usually only getting 2,000 to 3,000 steps by the time I get home at night.” — Rich Schuh, WHBY radio reporter
  • “Once I started writing the writing totals down and studying the week and comparing it to previous weeks, I was more aware of what I was doing on a daily basis and trying harder to reach goals that I set for myself. I will continue to write down my steps and set goals for each week/day. I believe the small changes that we make and stick to are the ones that really last and benefit us the most.” Tina Grenlie, — WDUX radio reporter
  • “I decided to take the challenge as a way to motivate me, which is always an issue. Not only did I sign up for this, I joined a gym and work out at least three times a week. I learned how inactive I was and how hard it is to increase the number of steps in a day unless you make time to exercise. The pedometer is a great way to track that, and I will continue to use it.”  — Cheryl Anderson, The Post-Crescent
  • “Because of this challenge and the need to get my workout in before work, I actually asked for winter outdoor running gear for Christmas.  I got it and now I’m going to commit to having 10,000 steps following my run and my work day.” — Emily Matesic, WBAY TV Channel 2

I’m looking forward to doing something like this again with the members of our local media – perhaps when the weather warms up and there are more opportunities to get outside and get active.

By Megan Wilcox, APR, Marketing Communications – Public & Media