A Need to Step Up!

woman walking

By Julie Jackson

I don’t know about you – but January isn’t my favourite month! Whether it’s the dark mornings and evenings, the debt of Christmas or the sluggish feeling after over-indulging.

As the end of December approached, I knew that I would need to be proactive to keep the January Blues at bay. I’d overheard a few colleagues say they wanted to get more active in the new year, but their busy work schedules was making it difficult for them to find time to exercise. That got me thinking about taking part in a ‘Step Challenge’ with the Liverpool Active Workplaces Programme, like I had in a previous job. So, in a bid to promote well-being among my colleagues, I decided to contact them.

There were no challenges running on the programme, they kindly gave me the link to a previous challenge. The Liverpool A to Z step challenge! We had to work together to complete a virtual A to Z tour of Liverpool by logging all of our daily steps to reach the 200 mile target by the end of January. All steps done during the day counted towards the challenge, both inside and outside of work, and colleagues could track individual and team progress via the spreadsheet.

Throughout January, 10 staff signed up to the challenge and quite quickly began to comment on benefits they were feeling – increased energy and motivated to be more active. For those who were a little more competitive, the live interactive leader board certainly motivated them to do more. You could hear colleagues shouting, “Tell (name) to sit down!” as their steps kept accumulating. Dogs were having extra-long walks, people were ‘taking the stairs’ more and some staff walked to work. There was a buzz in the office – even colleagues who weren’t participating cheered everyone on.

Once the challenge was over, we gathered some feedback from participants about the step challenge and its benefits, with people saying it increased their level of physical activity, and helped improve their mental health and wellbeing. As well as this they liked participating and engaging with co-workers and all said they wished to not only continue walking, but to increase their physical activity.

Taking part in the challenge made a definite improvement to my fitness, and, what’s more, I didn’t experience the January Blues either! It’s no surprise that after the success of January’s event, we decided to repeat this challenge in February. In March, we wanted to add variety, so we participated in a 50 Miles in March challenge. This time, we were only allowed to include miles from extra walks or runs outside of work, not our daily steps – the idea was to encourage ‘going that extra mile.’

To increase motivation, we had certificates for ‘First to Fifty’, ‘Most Miles in March’, ‘Most Miles in One Activity’, ‘ Best Route Map’ and ‘Best Newcomer’. After the success of these three events since the beginning of the year, now, we are doing ‘Active in April’. Any movement counts, such as walking, running, housework, playing and even going to the gym to lift some weights!

One of the things I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how inactive you are or how out of shape you feel, everybody can benefit by taking part.

Here are just a few comments that I’ve gathered from colleagues:

“The challenges came at just the right time for me. I was feeling very unfit, tired and lazy until I made a start on getting my steps in. I was also suffering with a wheezy chest which seems to have crept up on me in the last year or so; even whilst I was doing my PT sessions so I always avoided the cardio. I don’t like being out in the dark so did most of my steps with on the spot jogging. I started off very small doing 2 minute sessions and, by building up, I’ve found I can do over an hour on the spot jogging if I do it in 10 minute sessions and have a minute rest in between. The challenge with co-workers helped me keep up with it as I am sure if I was on my own I would have given up.”

“It motivated me wake up early and go for a walk. It made me more fitness conscious. I have also started looking for healthy alternate foods than before. Thank you so much.”

“I lost some weight and gained more motivation.”

“The January challenge was a great start to the year to get me moving again. I think anything that gets us moving is great! I’m always happy to take part in the challenges. The only barrier I found when taking part in the challenge was trying to beat my co-workers hahaha!”

As we move into the next season, why not add a spring in your step and challenge yourself to take more steps and see what the benefits can be?!

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