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On Campus

Good, Better, Best ... Ways to Stay Fit at AU

By Sally Acharya

There’s a lot of desk time at most AU jobs, but that doesn’t have to translate into slack muscles or clogged arteries. An increasing number of wellness initiatives are getting AU staff and faculty out of their offices and into the gym, onto jogging trails, or on long daily walks — all in the name of fitness.

Last summer’s popular Pedometer Challenge, with over 600 people wearing pedometers and aiming to walk at least five miles a day, was just the start. The university, after all, has a designated health promotion manager, the energetic Amy Farr, who masterminds a continuing series of contests and other efforts to keep AU employees from falling into the sedentary rut of modern office life.

This spring brings more chances to get fit and stay fit.

There are ongoing programs, such as the online personal health assessment—participants earn $10 gift cards to stores including Whole Foods —and the Weight Watchers program.

Farr has also found that short-term contests are fun and effective ways to encourage people to establish daily fitness habits without making an unrealistic commitment all at once.

February brings a month-long contest to spur daily exercise: the virtual Downhill Slalom Exercise Challenge. Though it sounds like AU’s winter Olympics, it’s not held on the slopes. You can participate by walking, running, swimming, lifting weights at the gym, or doing any kind of regular exercise and then tallying the minutes to see how many “gates” you’ve passed through on the virtual slalom courses.

Those who sign up for the Super G aim to exercise at least five days a week for a total of 30 minutes each day, although it can be split into shorter bouts, such as 10-minute walks.

There’s also the Giant Slalom, with more “gates” to pass through, which requires at least 45 minutes of exercise five days a week.

Participants can form teams or sign up as individuals. At the end of the month-long program, gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded to top-placing teams, whose members will also win prizes.

Sign-ups run from Jan. 18 to 30.

In March, the virtual slalom will be followed by another competitive effort — this one aimed at healthy eating. Five on Five has a Web-based feature that makes it possible to log eating habits. Teams or individuals win points based on healthy eating behavior.

Another program starting this spring will be the Couch to 5K program, which grew out of earlier fitness programs. “I’ve had a lot of people come and say, ‘I’ve been doing great with walking, and now I’d like to start running and do a race,” Farr says.

The plan is for participants to meet at 7 a.m. twice a week, work out on their own at least once a week, and prepare for a 5k race later in the spring.

There will also be monthly workshops on topics from allergy and asthma prevention to ergonomics and urban gardening. 

For more information, click here.