Wellness Specialist Leanna Bowles (left) speaks to members of the Building Services and Grounds teams about the WalkingFit program. Photo courtesy of UCR Wellness
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The UCR WalkingFit Program is designed help staff and faculty on the road to health and fitness by encouraging them to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. Sponsored by UCR’s Wellness Program and UC Living Well, UCR WalkingFit has a core group of about 100 avid walkers who use a pedometer to record their steps, then enter those steps into a website that tracks their progress. In addition to the health benefits, participants receive a variety of rewards as they meet individual and team goals throughout the year.
There is just one limitation with the program; many employees, including maintenance, custodial, grounds, food service and daycare workers, don’t have regular computer access through their job or, in some cases, the NetID required to log into the system. So when a group of UCR Grounds and Building Services employees approached the Wellness Program about participating in WalkingFit, wellness program specialist Leanna Bowles was able to come up with a solution.
“Many members of the campus Grounds and Building Services staff do not have regular access to a computer during their work day. This can make it hard to participate in a program like WalkingFit,“ Bowles said. “So we designed a program customized to the department, their varied work schedules, and their already formed work groups.”
The first step was to keep the program short enough to keep the groups motivated and engaged. To foster competition, participants were asked to form teams of four people. Steps were tracked on paper and submitted to supervisors and weekly standings were posted for all participants to see how they stacked up each week.
In all, 59 people signed up for the challenge and 53 of them completed all four weeks. The response to the program was very positive.
“A 90% completion rate really goes to show how much the participants were committed to and excited about this program,” Bowles said. “The participants walked about 7,229 miles, which is about the distance from Riverside to Hong Kong.”
One of those participants was Ray Varela, a custodial supervisor for Building Services who works the 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. shift. He finished third overall in the competition with 742,994 steps over the four weeks. His team, the Nerd Herd – consisting of Custodial Supervisor Gena Lozoya and Senior Custodians Tammie Corbin and Arnold Mendoza – finished fourth overall with 1,414,548 steps.
Varela said that entered the contest knowing that he already walked seven to eight miles each day as he made the rounds of campus, but said he pushed himself to walk further and more often.
“I have always been one who avoids elevators and takes stairs. I find walking to be the easiest way to get around on campus, especially when the students are here,” he said. “But I did walk more than I ordinarily do. For example, I parked off-campus and started walking to campus, rather than getting a ride. I was probably walking about 10 miles a day.”
Varela said that many of his colleagues were surprised to learn just how far they walked during an average day. “That was definitely an eye-opener.”
Ninety-two percent of the participants said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the program, with 85% saying they found themselves walking more during the day. The survey also revealed that 42% lost some weight and more than 30% felt they had better relationships with their coworkers.
The program is just the latest example of the UCR Wellness team putting together customized programming for a particular department or work-group. Previous efforts have included the Physical Plant, the Police Department, Housing, Dining and Residential Services, and the Child Development Center.
“We continue to identify departments and work groups that will benefit from customized programming based on their need, interest, and our available resources,” Bowles said. “Our goal is for greater engagement, broader reach, and improved outcomes.”