‘Walk Wisconsin’ while you work

Winter is a time for curling up on the sofa, watching the Packers and indulging in some comfort food.

The combination of cold weather and less activity can normally lead to a few extra pounds, but more than 250 UWM employees are trying to stay active as the temperatures drop.

They’re taking part in the Walk Wisconsin Challenge, a joint effort of the Best Place to Work initiative (BP2W) and the Work/Life Balance Implementation Team at UWM.

Colleagues Beth Weckmueller and Jen Singer head out for a lunchtime walk as part of the walking challenge. (Photo by Alan Magayne-Roshak)

The challenge, launched at the 2012 Panther Prowl, encourages employees to log their steps with free pedometers as they virtually “walk” around the state to University of Wisconsin System four-year campuses, beginning and ending at UWM. A map posted on the Walk Wisconsin Challenge website at uwm.edu/hr/worklife/walk translates distances from one UWS university to another into steps.  Walkers log their steps through a program on the American Heart Association website, and have the option of strolling alone or with a team of up to three employees. The website includes information on logging steps for UWM through the Heart Association website, resources for walkers and other information. Because it’s not realistic to expect walkers to cover the full 900 miles to reach all the campuses before the Challenge deadline, walkers can earn bonus miles by answering trivia questions about UWM.

“We wanted to promote walking through a friendly competition, and build a sense of community and school spirit,” says Mark Mielenz, benefits manager and member of two BP2W initiative teams.

Research has shown that exercise reduces health risks associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, high cholesterol and more, he adds. While walking has the lowest dropout rate of any form of aerobic exercise – keeping people moving in colder weather – organizers are hoping the fun of the challenge and small prizes (donated by the bookstore, Athletic Department, Peck School of the Arts and other campus departments) will provide enough incentive to keep the campus moving.

“It sounds like a fun way to keep up my exercise routine,” says Walk for Wisconsin Challenge participant John Dudek, who works in the Physics Department.

For friends and colleagues Beth Weckmueller of Enrollment Services and Jen Singer of the Center for International Education, walking over the lunch hour gives them a chance to get together and chat. Entering the challenge as a team is another way to keep motivated, they say.

“Neither Jen nor I would MIND if we happened to lose a few pounds as a result of this challenge, but I don’t really think that’s the main point,” says Weckmueller. “Just hoping to have a little fun and keep active. It can be hard to maintain motivation once the temperatures are not so mild.”

Patrick and Erica Paczesny are competing as a husband-wife team, and saw the challenge as a way to motivate each other to keep walking. Patrick works in human resources and Erica in benefits. Patrick wants to “see how many steps I can take and maybe analyze how much gas I have saved with each mile walked.”
Organizers hope that walkers will continue counting steps even after the Walk Wisconsin Challenge is over, says Mielenz. To those who didn’t sign up in time for the current competition, the committee is already working on a walking challenge for spring 2013.