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October 19, 2001
Volume 39, No. 5


Playful to the bone
Coleman says proposed cuts serious, but the University will do its share
Minutes Matter gets UI employees up and at 'em
Remembering November 1: A University tragedy 10 years later

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Minutes Matter gets UI employees up and at 'em

Sue Weinberg, hospital business office clerk, takes advantage of a fine fall day to rack up some walking time in the Minutes Matter program. Photo by Tim Schoon.

“I just had a physical about two months ago,” said Deb Pearson, a secretary in the hospital pharmacy department. “My doctor was amazed. I lost over 30 pounds in the last year. She was amazed at my cardio difference. My cholesterol, the exercise has changed it totally.”

If Pearson’s experience is any indication, Minutes Matter is more than just the name of a program sponsored by UI Wellness. It’s also a simple statement of fact.

Pearson is one of 457 registered participants in Minutes Matter. It’s an incentive program to encourage UI faculty and staff members to be more physically active.

“We try not to use the word exercise,” said Tanya Villhauer, a partner of UI Wellness. “We say physical activity. That can include a whole host of activities, not just the structured 30-minute program.”

Indeed, Minutes Matter participants can get credit in the program for engaging in a wide range of activities, from classic health-club activities like aerobics and weights to more everyday pursuits like gardening and snow shoveling. Participants simply keep a log of the minutes they spend in physical activity. Then when they reach certain levels, they receive prizes in recognition of their achievements.

At the lowest level, logging 2,000 minutes earns the participant a floating container to hold keys and valuables while exercising. At 5,000 minutes, the reward is a water bottle. Participants receive sunglasses for logging 10,000 minutes, a fanny pack for 20,000, and a T-shirt for 40,000. Since the program’s inception in 1999, five T-shirts have been awarded.

The program isn’t intended to turn Iowa into a campus of elite athletes. The idea is to encourage those who do little physical activity to do just a bit more. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week to improve health.

In Pearson’s case, the Minutes Matter program provided the extra nudge she needed to reach that goal.

“I’ve added a lot more since I started the program,” Pearson said. “I used to do three days a week on the bike. Then I added aerobics once or twice, and now three days a week. When I started logging in November of 1999, I was doing 700 or 800 minutes a month. Now I do 1,400 minutes a month.”

When the program began, it was just for walkers. After a few months, the decision was made to be more inclusive so as to encourage as much physical activity as possible. In fall of 2000, the program went on-line, allowing participants to log their hours on the Minutes Matter web site rather than by sending in a handwritten log.

Some participants have found other, creative ways to get motivated. For Sue Weinberg, a clerk in the hospital business office who has logged her minutes since September of 2000, the trick is to find a buddy.

“I’ve got a weight set, and I know you can count gardening,” Weinberg said. “But walking is what I do fairly regularly.” Weinberg gets extra motivation by having a regular walking date with coworker Carol Kline.

“We’ve been friends here in the business office for a number of years. She knew I wanted to lose weight, and she suggested we walk together a couple of days a week. She kind of prods me.”

When the weather is fine, they walk outside. When it’s too cold or wet, they join the many hospital workers who make the second-floor circuit. They start at elevator A, then walk to elevator L and back. Three laps back and forth is just 60 meters short of a mile.

To find out more about Minutes Matter, learn which activities are acceptable, or register, visit or call Villhauer at (38)4-8624.

“To go from nothing to just a moderate 30 minutes of activity is really beneficial,” Villhauer said. “The risk for developing diseases really goes down.”

Article by Sam Samuels

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