The winter weather doesn’t stop Annabelle Hullana from exercising over her lunch hour. Not now that she has a team of health-minded office mates to rally and motivate her.
Hullana, a counselor in the University of Iowa Office of Admissions, and her coworkers were among the more than 400 University of Iowa employees who signed up for Lighten Up Iowa—now Live Healthy Iowa—in 2008. The statewide program challenges teams of two to 10 adults to help each other form healthy habits in order to achieve fitness and weight loss goals.
The 2009 program runs Jan. 14 through April 23.
Almost everyone in Hullana’s office participated in the program last year—19 of 22 staffers signed up, and one student worker joined in too. They walked around campus or Old Capitol Town Center over the lunch hour, shared nutritious snacks like fruits and vegetables, and attended fitness classes in the evenings.
“It was just nice to have a team like this at work because were able to support each other, and that helped us reach our goals,” Hullana says. “We’re really all about encouraging each other anyway, and that attitude just carried over.”
Many of the admissions team’s participants kept up their healthy habits all year long, and are signing up for the challenge again in 2009. This year, they’re setting new fitness goals, including training for RiverRun, a 5K or 10K run/walk held annually on the UI campus in late April.
“Last year we got our bearings. This year it’s about setting goals and trying something different,” she says “We’re going to change it up a little this year. I think we are going to go snowshoeing, and we’ve thought about going ice skating and doing Bikram yoga.”
Live Healthy Iowa offers several resources to help participants meet their goals. The $18 per person registration fee includes access to an online nutrition and activity tracker, personalized meal plans, workout tips, healthful recipes, and a one-year subscription to a lifestyle magazine like Fitness or Heart Healthy Living.
UI Wellness will offer additional perks to teams that register as University teams. They include a kickoff breakfast for team captains; wellness seminars; and prizes for both leading and randomly chosen participating teams.
“Live Healthy Iowa has a team focus—this social support is key in sustaining healthy behaviors,” says Erin Litton, UI Wellness health coach and Live Healthy Iowa program administrator. “We find that having coworkers participate together brings a community atmosphere to the effort. When the office is creating ways to support each other, like going on walks or planning healthy lunches, individuals are more likely to accomplish their goals. If coworkers are making healthy choices with you, it is easier to be successful.”
Gina Snyder, a receptionist at the UI Family Care Center who has participated in the program for the last two years, also found that when office mates supported each other in their health goals, they became a better team in their work life, too. Her team—Internally Fit—was the top-ranking University team in the Weight Loss Division in 2007 and in the Minutes of Activity Division in 2008.
Litton encourages Live Healthy Iowa participants to take advantage of other UI Wellness programs such as personal health assessments, the liveWELL health coach service, and Well On Our Way, a program that awards points for healthful behaviors. UI Wellness also provides local area walking maps. Links to all of these resources are available at the UI Wellness web page, www.uiowa.edu/hr/wellness
All of those resources complement the Live Healthy Iowa program, she says, and offer support and motivation to UI employees working toward health goals.
“Iowa winters are hard. It can be challenging to want to get active. These programs can be great ways to get motivated to get back on track with wellness efforts after the holidays,” Litton says. “It’s a great way to reframe and refocus and get moving in a way that’s fun and supported by those around you.”
Any UI employees who aren’t able to find a Live Healthy Iowa team can contact Litton to be matched with others interested in participating. Teams can register for LHI throughout the duration of the program, but Litton asks that those who want help finding a team to join contact her by Jan. 19.
By Anne Kapler