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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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AU RecFit launches Student Step Challenge

The program’s goal is to help students increase fitness and fight depression during the cold winter months.

Throughout the month of February, AU Recreational Sports and Fitness will host the Student Step Challenge, encouraging students to remain active during winter months.

As part of the challenge, individuals or teams of four set daily step goals and track their progress through the use of pedometers and fitness apps. Every Monday, participants send in a picture of their weekly log and are eligible for prizes if they meet their goals. Although the challenge has already begun, anyone interested may still sign up through Monday, Feb. 8. Entry fees are $5 for individuals and $10 for a team, according to health fitness supervisor Justine Kelley.

Fitness center employees typically notice lower gym attendance rates in the winter, Kelley said. This prompted them to come up with the Student Step Challenge to encourage ongoing fitness and prevent seasonal depression.

“We noticed that during the winter time our numbers are down in the facilities, so that means a lot of people aren’t working out. They’re not staying active, and it’s important to stay moving, especially as the weather gets cold,” Kelley said. “It is a fact that depression is higher in the winter months, so it’s important that students have an outlet for their stress.”

Zach Smith, a sophomore in CAS and a Step Challenge participant, said he believes the challenge is effective in countering seasonal depression among students by giving them something to accomplish and feel good about.

“It gives people a goal to work towards everyday,” Smith said. “So if you’re walking places instead of taking the elevator, or an Uber, or the shuttle, it gets those endorphins flowing, so you feel a little bit happier. Plus you’re able to actually accomplish something which is always nice.”

Although this is the first year that the Student Step Challenge is being held, Kelley said that it is based on AhealthyU, a similar challenge that AU has implemented for staff and faculty members in the past which focuses more on team weight loss through a variety of activities.

While some of these activities include exercising, similar to the Student Step Challenge, other options specific to AhealthyU are available as well for faculty to earn points in the program, such as consulting with dieticians and other health coaches, according to the AhealthyU website.

“AhealthyU is something that the faculty and staff partake in. They do it every summer, and it’s a really big event, and a lot of people are really competitive,” Kelley said. “I figured we may as well do it for our students, and hopefully as years go on we can add to it, get more funding and make it a larger event.”

Smith said while he decided to sign up with friends, he thinks the competitive nature of the challenge and the reward for the best team at the end is an added bonus.

“Competing in things is fun and winning is always great if you can, and it’s nice to kind of put my FitBit to use other than me just saying I got however many steps done,” Smith said. “It’s nice to show other people.”

Current participants are working towards a large variety of daily step goals, ranging anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 steps per person per day.

Although these goals may seem high, Kelley said there are many simple ways for participants to reach them that don’t require much additional effort.

“I’ll send some encouraging quotes to you during the process, just to remind you to keep moving throughout the day,” Kelley said. “So don’t take the elevator, take the stairs. Walk around the block if you’re sitting for too long, stuff like that.”

Smith also stressed the simplicity of the challenge and said he encourages others to get involved.

“It’s a really great thing, and it’s not that difficult either,” Smith said. “Especially because a lot of people have iPhones too, and those have a pedometer in them already, so if you just keep it in your pocket all day, which everyone already does, it counts your steps. It’s really not even that much of an effort that you have to make.”


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