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School District employees issued first ‘health challenge’

By Staff | Aug 20, 2011

The first health challenge of the school year will kick off next month for employees and spouses of the district who wish to incorporate nutrition, physical activity and going green into their daily lives to win prizes, along with becoming healthier and more environmental friendly.

Lee County School District Wellness Coordinator Lisa Brown said they have held quite a few challenges in the past for district employees and their spouses. She said she tries to hold at least two challenges a year that pertain to either nutrition or physical activity or a combination of both.

In the past the challenges have attracted about 10 percent, or 1,000 employees.

The last challenge “Around the World” attracted 1,800 district employees, which Brown said was their largest participation yet.

Approximately half of the employees who participated in a health screening were at high risk of having health problems due to poor nutritional habits. In addition, approximately 64 percent were borderline or at high risk for developing health problems due to low physical activity levels.

“We are trying to improve the health of our employees by supporting them to eat better and move more,” Brown said.

For the first time Brown has four challenges scheduled for employees this year. She said she is trying to provide shorter challenges of a month’s length, so participants do not become overwhelmed.

This year they are adding an environmental twist to the “Love Your Mother” challenge, which will kick off on Sept. 2 and end on Oct. 3. Registration for the challenge began last week.

“It is the same ultimate goal, but we are trying to do it in a different way to keep it exciting,” Brown said.

The four categories that the participants can earn points in include physical activity; portion plate; reduce reuse and recycle and hang up the keys.

The physical activity category allows participants to earn 25 points for every 15 minutes of completed structured physical activity. A maximum of 150 points can be earned, which is an equivalence of 90 minutes of physical activity a day.

Brown said they are currently working out a deal with the Omni Club in Fort Myers for a free month of membership to all the participants of the “Love Your Mother” challenge.

She said weekly personal training and classes also will be offered for free.

The participants will have full access to the Omni Club for the entire month, she said.

The portion plate category, which replaced the USDA food pyramid to showcase a balanced meal, allows participants to earn 25 points for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The balanced meal contains 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 25 percent protein and 25 percent grains and carbohydrates.

“It is very simple,” Brown said about the plate illustration. “It illustrates what your plate should look like for each meal.”

The reduce, reuse and recycle category provides an opportunity for district employees to earn 25 points for each different action they perform to protect the earth. A total of 75 points can be earned in a day.

“It’s getting back to simplifying our lifestyle,” she said, adding that it “ties in nicely to how we should be living with health as well.”

The last category, hang up the keys, encourages participants to carpool with their fellow employees, ride their bike, walk or use transit to get to and from where they need to go.

A maximum of 100 points can be earned a day. A round-trip is 50 points and one-way is 25 points.

“Hopefully this challenge will encourage car pooling,” she said.

Those interested in car pooling can take advantage of the Commuter Services Ride Share Program, which is a free program that is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Brown said they will provide participants with a ride match list of other people in the county on the same route and time schedule as they are.

“It is a great service,” she said.

Those who register will have to log their earnings every seven days online, if not sooner, or they will lose credit for what they did. Brown said the teams are ranked according to the average points they receive.

The district customized an online site through Core Health Technology for the challenges to provide easy access for the participants. Brown said all they have to do is log in and click on the various icon target areas to earn their points.

This year the school team with the most points will win a 400-square-foot garden from Heartland Garden for their school. Heartland Garden is a non-profit organization located on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers.

Brown said the prize is a little more meaningful and it adds to what they are trying to accomplish – a healthier lifestyle for the district’s employees.

“I thought that would be a fun prize,” she said. “We are trying to change the culture not only with the employees, but with the kids.”