MNR tops workplace wellness challenge

Duane Hicks

With a team average of 325,730 steps over four weeks, and each of its members averaging 12,528 steps a day, the local Ministry of Natural Resources team captured the Northwestern Health Unit’s “Workplace Wellness Challenge” that wrapped up Dec. 4.
“The team is pretty happy. Everybody’s sending e-mails and dropping in saying they’re pretty excited we won,” said team leader and management biologist Melissa Mosley, who was informed of the win yesterday afternoon.
The 16 MNR employees racked up a team total of more than five million steps, with one team member getting half-a-million on their own.
Mosley said the team had no trouble staying active. They did a few walks on coffee breaks together, and had one lunch-time yoga session at Moss Yoga.
Some staff also did regular lunch-time walks together.
She noted staff also have a “squash ladder” going on in the office, so a number of the participants often were busy at lunch trying to beat someone to move up in the rankings.
Still others already were very active individuals on their own time, who regularly curled and swam, and this, too, was reflected in the team’s total.
Mosley said that, personally, she did a lot of mountain biking and dog walking, with some yoga and curling thrown in.
She added the MNR team “really enjoyed it,” and is definitely interested in doing the challenge again next year. But until then, she believes at least some of them, including herself, will be more conscious of their daily physical activity.
“Having people wear the pedometers, they were really a lot more aware of how much they were moving in a day, and I think that really stuck with people,” Mosley noted.
“I think a lot of people are going to try and do enough activities that they’ll make that 10,000 steps in a day.”
Mosley also tipped her hat to the Northwestern Health Unit, and especially organizer Becky Holden, for putting on the challenge.
“Becky did a great job organizing, and it definitely got our team moving around more,” she remarked.
In second-place was Linda Angus’ team from Rainycrest, which had a four-week team average of 325,557 and saw each of its members averaging 12,483 steps per day.
They were followed by Curves (294,300/11,319), MNR fire management (293,742/11,297), Fort Frances Times (293,542/11,290), Northwoods Gallery & Gifts (284,067/10,958), Fort Frances Public Library (281,912/10,843), Cheryl Tibbs’ team from Rainycrest (231,904.8,919), Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. (216,566/8,329), Holmlund Financial (185,000/7,115), Naicatchewenin FN band office and health office (109,844/4,225), and the United Native Friendship Centre (87,644/3,372).
For their effort, Mosley’s MNR team won a gift certificate for $100 for a catered lunch.
There also was a random draw to give away six workplace activity kits, which include an exercise ball, therabands, weights, and a skipping rope.
Those winners included Rainycrest, MNR fire management, Fort Frances Times, Riverside, Holmlund Financial, and Naicatchewenin FN.
Holden, a health educator with the Northwestern Heath Unit, said yesterday she was thrilled with the response to this year’s challenge—both with the new teams and the average numbers of steps taken.
“We had seven teams average over 10,000 steps [a day], which is awesome,” she noted. “We had 12 teams and seven teams were new, so that’s exciting.
“It’s great when you get new people on board,” she enthused.
Holden added most participants averaged 7,000 steps a day which, while below the 10,000 goal suggested for the duration of the challenge, is an encouraging level of activity.
The challenge was meant to be an opportunity to promote fitness in the workplace while encouraging people to be more physically active both during their work day and outside it, and seemed to succeed on both counts.
Holden pointed out more than 70 percent of participants indicated that during the period of the challenge, their physical activity increased.
Positive comments received included: “Not only were we challenging other workplaces, I was challenging myself every day, too” and “Good program that gives you incentive to get up and move. Wearing the pedometer is a motivator, for sure.”
Holden said the participant with the highest number of steps was Cindy Rose of Linda Angus’ Rainycrest team, who skated, lifted weights, rode a bike, and used a treadmill on top of her normal daily activity to garner a total of 824,498 steps over the four weeks.
She also noted 51 of the 128 participants (40 percent) who finished the challenge completed at least 10,00 steps a day—beating last year’s average of only 30 percent of the participants doing at least 10,00 steps a day.
As well, most teams that participated last year increased their number of participants (Linda Angus’ Rainycrest team, Curves, and Riverside) while others increased their average number of steps (Curves and Fort Frances Times).
This year’s challenge started on Nov. 9 and wrapped up Dec. 4. Participants had to return completed forms to their team leaders by Dec. 8, who, in turn, were supposed to bring them in to Holden last Thursday (although one team leader didn’t get their numbers in until yesterday, holding up the process).
Those who took part were asked to strive for 10,000 steps per day. They could keep track of these using a pedometer, but if they were doing activities such as swimming, yoga, etc., they could use a table which converts time spent doing those activities into steps.
Participants this year were encouraged to use a website to keep track of their progress online, although Holden noted only four of the workplaces used this option.
Instead, most recorded their progress on a sheet and turned that into their respective workplace team leader.
Holden said she hopes the workplace wellness challenge will expand even further next year—and aims to get more participation from all over the health unit’s catchment area.
“That will be kind of exciting if we can pull it off,” she remarked.
In the meantime, now that the challenge is over, Holden is hoping employees realize the benefit of keeping active inside and outside their work day, and maintain that level of activity well beyond the four weeks.
She offered a few tips.
“It’s about keeping in mind to reduce the long periods of time that we spend sitting, especially if [we] have office jobs,” she advised, suggesting people try to get in 60 minutes of activity a day.
“It doesn’t have to be 60 minutes all at once,” she stressed. “You can break it up into 10-minute periods throughout the day.
“I think this challenge helped people realize how inactive they were, and also helped them find ways throughout their day to be a little more active.
“If you made a few different behaviour changes throughout this four-week period, try to commit to sticking to one or two of those,” Holden added.
“If you walked to work every day, try to commit to walking to work a couple days a week or walk a couple days during your lunch break.
“Pick out the things that are simple enough you can commit to them on a long-term basis,” Holden said. “Some people do go full out for the four weeks and then it totally drops off.
“Try to commit to a couple behaviour changes that are really going to increase your physical activity,” she urged.
For those who would like more information about promoting physical activity in the workplace, visit, call Holden at 274-9827, or e-mail her at