Promoting health and well-being: Staff walk around the world 4.6 times

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St. Joseph’s Health Care, London knows how to step it up. More than 1,500 staff laced up their running shoes, clipped on a pedometer and walked their way to health and fitness during a six-week walking challenge.

The challenge, held across all sites, crossed the finish line in fine form in April 2008. All sites combined, the total step count of all who participated was a staggering 231,822, 230 steps. Since circumference of the world is 40,075 kilometres or 50,093,750 steps, this means staff walked around the world 4.6 times. And many are still going.

The six-week challenge, held Feb. 28 to April 10, attracted a remarkable 1,546 staff members, including more than 150 teams. The purpose was to promote health and well-being and generate fun by encouraging all staff to incorporate more walking into their daily routines at home and work. The challenge was one of many initiatives of the corporate Quality of Worklife Resource team in response to an employee survey aimed at enhancing the work environment. In the survey, fun in the workplace was highlighted by staff as important and needing attention, along with recognition and learning. The walking challenge combined fun and fitness and was so popular, planning has begun for the 2009 walking challenge. Once again, registration will kick off on Valentine’s Day urging staff to “use your feet, boost the beat.”

For good health and fitness, 10,000 or more steps a day is generally recommended, yet the average person takes only 5,000 –7,499 steps each day. When going the prescribed distance, walking is known to strengthen the heart, bones, and muscles, not to mention friendships. It also increases energy and stamina, helps maintain a healthy body weight, and reduces stress.

At the start of the challenge, registrants, who each paid $5 to take part, received a goody bag of walking information, log sheet, and a pedometer. They tracked their steps daily and recorded weekly. Every step counted – at home and work.

Individually, many participants logged 500,000 or more steps during the challenge, but one walker led the pack. Martha Laskaris, a cook at Regional Mental Health Care (RMHC) London, logged an impressive 1,047,000 steps and was the grand winner.

Prizes were also given out to each overall team winner, the top 10 finishers at each of the five main sites – St. Joseph’s Hospital, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, Parkwood Hospital, RMHC London and St Thomas – the top team at each site, and to all who made it into the 500,000 or more step club.

In all, there were about 150 teams registered and in addition to the exercise, each team had fun creating a team name, many of them to represent their department in the hospital. Some of them included: The Three Amoebas from infection control; The Drug Runners from pharmacy; Rear Entry, a team from endoscopy; Sweet Tarts from diabetes and endocrine; Disjointed from rheumatology; Occupational Hazzards, from Occupational Health and Safety Services; Four Steps to Forcepts; X-Rayted Steppers; Walkie Talkers from Organizational Development & Learning Services; Baby Steps and Wee Walkers, both from perinatal services; Stroke Striders, from rehabiltiation; Fearless Fundraisers; Drug Pushers, from pharmacy; Brainiacs, from acquired brain injury rehabilitation; and Geri-Action from specialized geriatrics.

Lesley Carmichael at St. Joseph’s Hospital was a big walker before the challenge, but clipping on a pedometer brought out her competitive nature. “I became a processed person,” she says with a laugh. “It gave me a reason to go out in any kind of weather and push myself more. On weekends, I would take the long way to get places.”

Lesley, who doesn’t own a car, walks to and from work, hits the trails at lunch, and runs three days a week, says a benefit of the challenge was seeing just how much you move or don’t move. She learned she walks 10 to 15 kilometres a day.

Generating much spirit, friendly competition, fun and wellness, the corporate-wide challenge – a first for St. Joseph’s – was a great success. The event contributed to St. Joseph’s recently winning the 2008 OHA Healthy Hospital Innovators Award. In winning the award, St. Joseph’s was commended for numerous initiatives including creative and innovative approaches to employee wellness and the strength of the Quality Workplace Resource Team.