Healthy Holiday Challenge encourages exercise, healthy habits
The Freshman Fifteen isn’t just for freshmen, or even just for students.
Staying fit and healthy can be a constant battle for anyone, especially during the holiday season, when pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies are thrown into the mix.
The University of Idaho’s, Student Recreation Center is devoted to promoting healthy habits year-round, which is why its running the Healthy Holiday Challenge for university staff who are staying in Moscow between Nov. 23 and Jan. 3.
For six weeks, 62 teams with an average of five staff members will compete against each other by trying to amass the most points, earned by doing anything that burns calories. Different amounts of points are awarded based on the difficulty of the activity, from one point for walking the dogs or raking leaves to three for cycling or running. The team captains submit point tallies weekly, starting Nov. 23, and prizes are awarded to the top two teams in each division.
According to UI Fitness and Wellness Director Peg Hamlett, who organized the event, the challenge is an incentive to create healthy habits not only during the holidays, but also year-round. She said it focuses on the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because staff generally don’t teach as many classes and have more time to relax and, in the case of exercise, “slack off.”
“Starting at Thanksgiving is generally when we start getting into our holiday ‘Let’s nest in our house and make food’ mode, and then we get into our Christmas break,” Hamlett said. “It’s easy if you have some downtime to get a little too into the holiday spirit, so we thought this would be a fun way to bring the colleagues all together and to track how we’re doing over the break.”
Hamlett said 40 teams competed last year, this year’s 62 registered teams is a significant increase. To encourage participation among staff members who do not regularly work out, this year there are two categories — one for faculty who work out five or more times per week and one for faculty who work out minimally or not at all.
“We want to make it so that people who are just starting out don’t have to feel like they have no chance of winning,” Hamlett said. “It doesn’t matter whether you exercise five times a week. What we want you to do is to find a little more activity in your life.”
Hamlett said the SRC awards prizes weekly based on a drawing for the same reason. There are some teams who are extremely competitive, choosing members based on their athleticism and constantly checking on their progress, while other teams are proud to be exercising at all.
The challenge invites campuses across the state to take part, helping employees in Idaho Falls and Boise alike feel a sense of UI community, Hamlett said.
Kristin Strong, marketing and events coordinator for Campus Recreation, said she puts in a lot of work to make the Healthy Holiday Challenge a success.
Strong said she starts by contacting on-campus sponsors, including the VandalStore and Staff Affairs, who donate prizes to the winning teams.
“I think the challenge helps get coworkers to encourage each other to stay active,” Strong said. “The weather’s turning cold and it just helps people stay active and think about starting the new year off right.”
The SRC has modified hours over the Winter and Thanksgiving breaks, but they’re still open for a large portion of time. Strong said just because the SRC is closed doesn’t mean participants can’t go outside to exercise.
The Healthy Holiday Challenge may be reserved for university staff, but students do not have to wait long to be included in the festivities. Hamlett said starting in Janauary, the SRC will host the Vandal Fitness Challenge, which is a similar program to help students who want to get healthy or lose weight in the new year.
“I love the way people get into it,” Hamlett said. “I love the way I get emails from the Boise teams and how they really feel connected back to the campus now. I love the way people come up with such great and creative names. Anyone who hasn’t joined yet still can.”
Alyssa Baugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org