By Megan Wilcox, APR, ThedaCare Media and Public Relations
Twelve weeks ago, we were in the throes of winter and sports fans were waiting for the Winter Olympics to start. Now, spring has finally made its arrival – we hope – and many sports fans are tuned into the Milwaukee Brewers.
A lot of change can happen in 12 weeks and that’s what I was aiming for when I launched the Pedometer Challenge in early February. The Challenge was primarily designed for members of the media as well as partner organizations, like local chambers of commerce, with the goal of helping them improve their health. This is the second year I’ve done the Challenge and this year I encouraged everyone to get a buddy, whether it was a spouse, sibling, coworkers or friend, to help them stay on track.
More than 38 people – including three members of the public after I posted something about it on Facebook – signed up for the Challenge, which is sponsored by ThedaCare and ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. On a daily basis, they put on a pedometer and logged their steps, reporting in once a week. With health providers recommending people get in 10,000 steps a day, most participants were shocked to see just how little they moved. Many of them made changes in their habits, such as walking instead of taking the stairs, marching in place while talking on the phone or during TV commercials, or doing what they can to get in a daily workout.
It’s been wonderful to see the weekly step increases and how participants are literally taking steps to improve their health.
For example, Amber Araiza joined the Challenge with the rest of the staff at the Waushara Argus. Last week, she had 102,155 steps!
“I'm sad the challenge is over but I ordered myself a Fitbit for Mother's Day. I'm really excited to continue with a personal challenge now. Two of my girlfriends have been more conscious of their activity level since I've started this challenge, too,” she says.
I was impressed with the Argus’ staff and how they all worked together on the Challenge, such as getting up and walking at break time – even if it was just around the office.
“The Challenge sure has made a difference in my life. I eat better, I have lost weight and am so much more conscious of my daily activity,” says Jessie Weiss. “We plan to keep walking here at the Argus on our breaks and I plan to continue this and make my own personal challenge.”
Another Argus employee, Alyssa Overbeck, says wearing the pedometer makes her realize how active – or inactive – she is.
“The crazy thing is, sometimes there are days at work where I barely reach over 1,000 steps. So, I think just getting up and walking around every hour or so would really help with that and is something I'm going to try to do. I will definitely keep wearing my pedometer,” she says.
Jerry Brien of Kaukauna is one of the three members of the public who joined in the Challenge. He had hip surgery earlier this year, but as soon as he got the OK to walk longer distances he jumped right in and hasn’t looked back.
“I am now walking 75 minutes straight. I started using the pedometer on April 7 when you sent it to me. This has been great for me. In addition to my longer walks, I find myself parking further away from places so I have to walk,” he says. “Before my surgery, I used elevators and now I use steps. I take mores steps by moving around more often at home. Sometimes I make multiple steps to do a task by taking the longer route instead of the shorter route.”
Melissa Schuh, wife of WHBY’s Rick Schuh, says completing the Challenge wasn’t necessarily easy – she’s 6 months pregnant and also has a toddler at home – but she did finish. She hopes to compete in future Challenges so she can post some better numbers.
“To reach my number this week, there were quite a few basement dance parties with daughter Bella, one 15-minute walk (waddle) on the treadmill, not my idea of fun right now but I got to watch a little bit of Grey's Anatomy, so that made it a little better, and a few waddles around the neighborhood on the nicer days. And, this week, I think I'm going to have to take it a little easier…I am very sore,” she says.
Bob Salm of WHBY says the Challenge was fun. “I will continue to keep track of my steps and miles walked. It really makes exercising fun when you have to report to someone on what you have done each week. Now I will just have to report to myself,” he says.
Devan Strebig, member relations manager for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, admits doing the Challenge during the winter made it a bit more difficult. But, she adds, that was probably the point since participants had to go more out of their way to move.
“I have never worn a pedometer before and it made me realize how inactive I am. It is hard getting steps in when you sit at a desk for eight hours a day. I wish it would have been nicer outside to do more activities, but my membership to the gym helped a lot,” she says.
As for Melissa Boutott, sister of WFRV’s Chelly Boutott, the final week was also her best ever with more than 150,000 steps. As a teacher, she is on her feet a lot, but there are still some days when she had a lot of meetings and didn’t move a lot. She came up with different ways to keep moving – and get in more steps than her sisters – such as marching during TV commercials or when on the phone.
“I learned that a step in motion should stay in motion. Meaning, once you start moving keep moving. For example, when you go get the laundry and bring it to your folding destination, don't stop stepping. Keep moving while you fold,” Melissa says.
As for Melissa and her sisters, they attended a banquet during their final week and got out on the dance floor to help increase their step count.
“Many people were watching us and laughing because we were being so crazy bopping around. When people would come up to us and make comments, Chelly would show them her pedometer and tell them that we were part of a Pedometer Challenge and that's why we were dancing so crazily. One person said that she wanted to get a pedometer and compete with us at next year's banquet dance,” Melissa says.
It’s been a great 12 weeks. I just want to thank all of the Challenge participants and I hope that they’ll keep moving and stay focused on their health.