While the holidays are usually a time for sugar cookies, hot chocolate and curling up next to a fire, many faculty and staff at the University of Idaho use the season to get moving and stay active.
The Healthy Holiday Challenge is a university-wide, seven-week competition hosted by Campus Recreation to encourage UI faculty and staff to exercise and set healthy goals for the holidays, said Peggy Hamlett, fitness and wellness director at UI.
Participants can form teams of three to six people to compete against other teams by gathering the most fitness points, which are calculated from the amount of exercise each teammate completes. The competition has three divisions — snowflakes, mistletoe and blizzards — that allow both beginners and experts to join in the fun.
“The challenge is a fun way to bring the whole campus together to stay active over the holidays,” Hamlett said. “For our faculty at our other campus locations in Twin Falls and Coeur D’Alene, this is a special event that makes them feel like they are a part of the campus community.”
Due to the popularity of the challenge in recent years, Campus Recreation partnered with Human Resources and the Blue Cross of Idaho. While it was always open to all campus faculty and staff, Hamlett said the partnership has made it easier to include off-campus employees in the rivalries and competition. Participants can now use a mobile app to record their points, check other team’s scores and add points from many different types of exercise.
“While this year’s challenge is fairly similar to years’ past, every year we try to simplify the program to get as many people as possible to participate,” Hamlett said.
Justin Barnes, assistant professor of advertising, is competing in the challenge for the second time. Two years ago, he was the leader of the winning team.
“I really liked seeing how others incorporated movement into their life, and sharing that experience together,” Barnes said.
Barnes said the best part of the challenge is being part of a group and meeting new people. As a former athlete, Barnes said his perspective on exercise has changed over the years.
While in his younger years he spent his time at the gym lifting weights and cycling, Barnes said he now looks at exercise through the lens of longevity and lifestyle habits. He said being part of the team has allowed him to “add a wrinkle here or there” on new ways to exercise, inspiring him to try different exercises like dance and yoga.
“That idea of camaraderie is so important in fitness,” Barnes said. “Whether at school, home or work, if you have a stronger community around you, you’re more likely to come back, continue to exercise and make it a lifestyle.”
Hamlett said the Healthy Holiday Challenge impacts the health of faculty at UI. The challenge makes more people aware about the importance of movement in a healthy lifestyle, and it inspires its participants to start asking important questions about staying active, she said. Hamlett said being part of a group holds people accountable, motivating them out of the desire not to let their team down.
“We know that getting up and doing exercise is the hardest part,” Hamlett said. “But once you work out, it’s fine. The challenge helps with that.”
Winners of the competition in each category will be awarded free lunch, courtesy of the UI Staff Council. Participants who log in their points each week can also enter drawings to win a Fitbit donated by the Blue Cross of Idaho.
“It’s never too late to start,” Hamlett said.
Taryn Hadfield can be reached at email@example.com