A step in the right direction

Author: Gene Stowe

Pictured left to right, Nancy Sheets, Kesha Walker, Nancy Cole, Jane Nagy and Deb Grecco are a group of employees from several teams who often walk at lunch

A walking contest provided a moving experience for the Notre Dame Alumni Association office, where some 30 employees on a half-dozen teams took measured steps for six weeks to promote healthy habits.

The Spring Step Challenge, which started in April and ended May 14, included pedometers provided by RecSports to help participants keep track—reporting to their captains each week. They kept the pedometers after the finish to encourage extending the movement.

“The goal is to create a fun way to get people to walk more,” says Josh Stowe, who organized the Challenge with Elle Metz and with enthusiastic support from executive director Dolly Duffy.

“Living in South Bend, it’s easy to drive everywhere. It’s very easy to be very sedentary, especially when you have a computer-based job, so our goal is just to get people moving more.”

Some coworkers are more active than others, says Stowe, who counts himself among the ex-sedentary inspired by the context.

“This was to get everybody moving,” he says. “It’s to get the people who are more sedentary, like myself for example, more active. The goal to aim for was 10,000 steps a day, which is about 5 miles. You have to make time to do it. We have different groups of people that would walk together at lunch. That was nice.

“For myself, I would see how little I walked at the end of the workday and be horrified and end up walking more. It spurs you to walk more when you see what you’ve actually been doing, when you know it’s going to be reported to your team captain. No one wants to be the person who’s done only 2,000 steps.”

“The best part of the contest was the awareness it created,” Metz says. “You couldn’t ignore the fact that after a day sitting at your desk, your pedometer registered very few steps. Once people realized just how little they were moving, they were motivated to be more active. Some started walking at lunch with co-workers, others fit in a walk with their spouse in the evening and others revved up their exercise routine. I hope everyone was able to make some small changes to make their routine more active.”

Co-worker Yvonne Waggoner says the context altered her habits.

“I now park farther away and take the stairs whenever possible,” she says. “It gave me accountability with the spreadsheets and incentives with the milestones.”

The association’s annual leadership conference during the Challenge helped workers accelerated the pace.

“During that week, we had one person that walked over 20,000 steps in one day,” Stowe says. “When you’re running back and forth between McKenna Hall and the Eck Center and you’re going to different locations on campus like the Compton Family Ice Arena and you’re on your feet all the time, you definitely get a lot of steps. If you plan your day that way, if you walk to a meeting instead of taking a golf cart, that makes a difference. Little things add up.

“There’s a lot of research now that says if you sit a lot of the time, even if you work out, that’s not good. Even if it’s just a matter of getting up and walking over to someone’s desk instead of emailing them, or walking around the office, or walking to get your lunch, that’s a step in the right direction.”