IU campuses fight to be ‘healthiest’

The competition is based off of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, one of four different challenges that comprise the President’s Challenge many remember from elementary school physical education.

“With this particular competition, we’re just looking to build awareness about the importance of physical activity and nutrition,” said Patty Hollingsworth, director of employee health engagement.

Though few know it, the office that administers the physical fitness test used by 32,000 schools nationwide is located on the Bloomington campus, Hollingsworth said.

Jeff McClaine, associate director of The President’s Challenge, worked with Hollingsworth, and IU Office of Creative Services created an online portal to track
participants’ progress.

“We work with a lot of large organizations, and it’s nice to do something with IU,” said Michael Willett, director of The President’s Challenge and associate chair for the department of kinesiology.

Hollingsworth, who works with IU employees system-wide, said the challenge was a collaborative effort between employee groups from every campus as a step toward becoming the healthiest university in the United States.

The challenge required the participants, who are IU employees and faculty, to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity per day for at least five days a week, six out of the eight weeks of the challenge, which began in October or early November, depending on the campus.

The inter-campus challenge also included a nutrition component, which was introduced to The President’s Challenge this fall as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to lower obesity rates in America.

For the nutrition component of the challenge, participants picked from eight different goals promoting healthy eating habits.

Participants involved in the program are ideally exposed to healthier eating habits and more active lifestyle choices.

The list of goals consisted of tasks such as making half the food fruits and vegetables or drinking more water.

“They’re doable things,” Hollingsworth said. “That’s what I like the most.”

Participants chose five of the eight goals to incorporate into their diets, one each week of the challenge with one “free” week.

At the end of the six-week challenge, participants submit records of their progress.

After all records are turned in, which Hollingsworth said she hopes will be at the end of the semester, the percentage of employees from each campus who completed the challenge will be calculated.

The campus with the highest percentage of faculty and staff who completed the challenge will gain possession of a traveling trophy to be used in future health and wellness competitions.

Hollingsworth said it is difficult to tell which campus is ahead at this point in time because not all participants have completed the challenge.

“IU-Kokomo and IU-East have told me numerous times that they really want to win,” she said. “It’s based on percentage, not total numbers, so a campus that has 200 employees, since they’re small, sometimes it’s easier for them to win.”

Hollingsworth, who finished the challenge last week, said she has received a lot of positive feedback about the challenge.

“I had a woman the other day who said, ‘My tight blue jeans aren’t tight anymore,’” she said. “So, that was kind of fun. There were a couple employees who said they didn’t like the competition, and that’s okay. It isn’t for everybody.”

Hollingsworth said she hopes to organize a similar inter-campus competition for students and, eventually, a fitness challenge in which schools within the Big Ten can compete against one another.

“In the end, all participants are winners,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s really about finding physical activities that help you feel great and eating foods that both taste wonderful and nourish your body.”

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