Hospital employees answer the Fitness Challenge’

Competition boosts morale and health

It was a challenge issued to the beat of a step class, the pace of a race walk, the strength of a stream of push-ups. The reward for the team who won the Fitness Challenge at DeKalb Medical Center in Decatur, GA: $1,000 to split and a paid day off.

The Fitness Challenge drew 660 hospital employees to the two-month effort. About half (318) completed both the pre- and post-assessment.

The overall results were impressive. Employees collectively lost 671 pounds, gained 482.75 inches in flexibility, increased their number of push-ups by 2,854, and improved their heart rate on a cardio step test by 1,247 beats per minute.

"These are things you can’t fake. People really had to work to increase their cardio endurance like this," marvels Gail Winston, RN, MSN, director of health promotion.

DeKalb Medical Center has had a wellness center, with an indoor track, cardio and weight equipment, swimming pool, and classrooms, for almost 20 years. Employees receive a reduced rate to join. But this is the first year the hospital encouraged them to get fit with a challenge.

Winston promoted it through newsletters, fliers, and e-mails. "Then the word just spread," she says. "People were very excited about it." Even the CEO joined a team.

"Results R Us," from the Rehab Results unit, won first place, beating out "Overnight Celebrities," the night-shift team, which won $500.

Winston also gave out third place ($250) and an individual award ($100 and a paid day off) in addition to door prizes. Teams had five to 10 members.

The prizes were an appealing incentive, but then employees became hooked on the competition and fitness goals, Winston says. It contributed to morale and team-building, she adds.

"Everyone knows that a healthy employee has less sick days, less injuries on the job, and more satisfaction," Winston notes.