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Employees step up

Nearly 500 faculty and staff on five campuses took to the stairs in March

By Susan Wiese

Stairs art doodle 165
Image by Helen Sandwick.

May 4, 2010

Nearly 500 faculty and staff on five campuses took to the stairs in March in the first-ever StairWELL Challenge. Spearheaded by wellness advocates and sponsored by the Wellness Program, the campaign delivered impressive results:

•    Total flights of stairs taken: 274,936
•    Top stair climber: nearly 3,000 flights
•    Average number of flights of stairs taken by all participants: 582
•    Total individual participants: 472
•    Total number of U workgroups or departments involved: 47
•    Number of prizes awarded: 47
•    Value of grand prize: $130

One participant, John Kowalczyk, participated in the challenge from a world away. While on spring break during a visit to Paris and Rome, the UMD program coordinator for first-year students tracked the flights of stairs he climbed. Kowalczyk even kept an online photo album to prove it. "Admittedly," he wrote in his travel journal, "counting flights of stairs surrounded by tourists and awe-inspiring architecture was not an ideal combination." Nevertheless, he was delighted he was able to participate in the event while overseas.

Another participant, Helen Sandwick, an aerospace studies employee at UMD, shared the motivational doodle she used to persevere throughout the challenge. Today, she continues to choose the stairs over an elevator. "Working in a basement office, I look for an excuse to come up to see the light of day," she says. To that end, Sandwick discovered a window on the top floor of her building that offers a scenic view of campus, where she often returns to admire the view and check the weather.

Take the stairs for free Twins tickets
Eager to step up the number of stairs you take? For those who want to continue to practice stairwellness, there is a "Step To It" challenge in mid-May. The four-week contest is open to Hennepin County suburban residents. Cosponsored by the Minnesota Twins, the top step takers will be eligible to receive free Twins tickets.

StairWELL Challenge prizes were distributed nearly two weeks ago; the winners are enjoying gifts ranging from healthy meals, gardening gloves, and tunes on a new iPod Shuffle. The names of the recipients and a description of the prizes each won is available in the wellness section of the OHR website

In the meantime, wellness advocates will get together later this week for a springtime recognition celebration. They will share stories from their individual departments or workgroups to gauge the success of this inaugural challenge. To learn more about what it means to be a wellness advocate, see wellness.


U faculty and staff and their spouses or same-sex domestic partners who are covered by the UPlan Medical Program can receive a free pedometer and earn a $65 wellness reward for participating in the 10,000 Steps® program from Health Partners.