By Suzy Kisylia, Senior Wellness Manager & Mara Krasts, HR Project Manager, University of San Francisco
Suzy Kisylia’s official title may be Senior Wellness Manager, but to many staff and faculty at the University of San Francisco (USF), she’s the “wellness guru.” Throughout the pandemic, Kisylia has focused on finding new ways to support the USF community by offering a variety of health and wellness programming, including the Go Move Challenge.
The Go Move Challenge started in 2013 as a friendly competition between the recreation center directors at USF and Santa Clara University to determine which university’s staff and faculty could accumulate the most exercise minutes for the month of February. That competition was a huge hit and has since expanded across the AJCU network: to date, 25 of the 28 AJCU member institutions have engaged in the program.
This year, the Go Move Challenge is happening under unprecedented conditions. Kisylia says, “Because of the pandemic, we have had to be more flexible and creative in helping participants reach their exercise goals. Not everyone has access to gyms or in-person fitness classes right now. In addition, reduced capacity thresholds make it harder to participate in classes or other indoor activities.”
One of the ways that Kisylia is encouraging people to connect through Go Move is by embracing technology. The Go Move Challenge Facebook and Instagram pages have been popular avenues for competitors to share how they are earning their minutes of exercise, while using the hashtag #GoMoveChallenge. Kisylia says that “shoveling snow” has been a common theme for East Coast and Midwest participants, noting, “We even have someone snow-kiting!” In Mobile, AL, Spring Hill College teams participated in “Yardi Gras”: a walking parade to view homes and yards that were decorated for Mardi Gras, after the annual festivities were canceled.
Zoom is also being used for online workouts and fitness classes. Kisylia says, “Participation in online classes has been exceptional at USF, as people seem to enjoy being able to squeeze in a workout during the day without having to leave their homes.”
Many employees have taken advantage of Creighton University’s offer of free fitness classes for all participating institutions through their fitness platform, hbFIT. With 50+ on-demand workouts and 20+ livestream classes, there is something for everyone.
“The Challenge has evolved from year to year, based on valuable feedback from participants,” says Kisylia. “The introduction of an online Go Move platform in 2017 provided every institution the ability to compete both regionally and on an overall basis. The new ‘total minutes’ and ‘average minutes per person’ features leveled the playing field for smaller institutions. This year, all AJCU competitors can participate in the new team component within their institution. The team aspect allows competitors to organize teams of two to six members. This brings the competition home so that everyone can compete on behalf of their college or university, but also against their own colleagues.”
Why are AJCU institutions staying engaged with Go Move year after year? Kisylia says that competition is a fantastic motivator. “The camaraderie of the Challenge is also a great incentive for many participants, particularly this year, since so many of us are seeking more ways to connect with others. There is a plaque that is awarded to the winning institution, which carries the names of each year’s prior winners. The winner holds the plaque until the next year’s winner is announced.”
Last year’s overall winner was Santa Clara, now on a 2-year winning streak. Regional winners were Fordham University for the East Coast, Creighton in the Midwest, Xavier University in the South, and Santa Clara in the West.
According to Debby Merryman, Health and Wellness Program Administrator at Santa Clara, “Faculty and staff enjoy encouraging co-workers to make the most of this month with their health and wellness. Having the team element within the Challenge is a big draw for Santa Clara employees. A little more motivation this year is that having won the past two years, we are trying for a three-peat!”
The ultimate goal of the Challenge is to motivate employees to incorporate movement into their daily lives. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of movement per week to maintain good heart health. Last year’s Go Move Challenge participants surpassed that goal by recording 225 minutes per week, with an average of 31 minutes per day. As Kisylia says, “We remind players that counting minutes means that every minute counts and that every minute is intentional. Last year, competitors logged nearly four million minutes!”
Having built such an impressive track record with Go Move over the past nine years, Kisylia is reflecting on celebrating the Challenge’s tenth year in 2022. “We have come so far from a simple, friendly competition between USF and Santa Clara. I am incredibly proud that the program has expanded to nearly all of our AJCU partners. This year’s event has been particularly poignant because of the pandemic. We are all experiencing stress and deep emotions like never before and movement is a proven way to alleviate that burden. Go Move has a key role to play in keeping us all healthy, motivated and connected.”
We are all looking forward to the results of this year’s Challenge and encourage everyone to keep moving and tracking their minutes. Don’t forget to share your GoMove experience on social media using #GoMoveChallenge, or e-mail Suzy Kisylia directly at email@example.com. Be sure to find out the winner of this year’s Challenge by visiting the Go Move Challenge platform on March 1. And to learn more about how other institutions are earning their minutes, be sure to subscribe to AJCU Higher Ed News, which includes weekly challenge recaps. Good luck, stay healthy and have fun!