Employee Health and Fitness Day

“Start movin’ and have some fun!” was the call to action on Wednesday, May 21, as ECU celebrated National Employee Health and Fitness Day with hundreds of ECU faculty and staff members outside the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus.

This year, ECU’s Campus Recreation and Wellness partnered with BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina to provide ECU employees with a few hours of fitness, fun, and wellness education. Support for the event was also provided by the ECU ACT-WEL team, ECU Human Resources, ECU Staff Senate, and Aramark with Campus Dining. Activities included healthy cooking demonstrations, an outdoor strength lab, bicycle-powered smoothie machines, blood pressure and body mass index screenings, and plenty of information on eating right and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The highlight of the afternoon was the one-mile power walk around campus intended to show participants how simple it can be to incorporate walking into their daily routines.

ECU employees line up to learn about healthy living at BlueCross BlueShield's table at ECU Employee Health and Fitness Day.

“I think the importance of the walk is to show that a 15- to 20-minute walk is all you need to do to reduce your risk for diseases,” said Suzanne McDonald, assistant director of physical activity and wellness education at ECU and one of the event’s organizers.

Individuals can significantly reduce their risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol by engaging in 30 minutes of brisk walking each day. McDonald notes that the 30 minutes can be broken up into smaller increments such as the distance of Wednesday’s power walk.

“Today has been great,” said Kim Joyner, quality improvement coordinator for ECU Student Health Services, who walked the mile-long route through campus not once, but twice. “It’s a beautiful day, and there’s been a lot of team work and team spirit out here to make us healthy and more fit.”

ECU’s Employee Health and Fitness Day coincided with BlueCross BlueShield’s Million Step March appearance in Greenville and gave employees the opportunity to be inspired by Kathy Higgins and Gary Marino, who each walked more than 400 miles to get to Greenville. The Million Step March is a walk across the state of North Carolina, from Asheville to Wilmington, to promote the benefits of physical activity.

The importance of exercise and living a healthy lifestyle simply cannot be overstated, especially in eastern North Carolina where heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are major threats to the health and wellbeing of the population. In his remarks, Chancellor Steve Ballard noted that if the 28 counties in eastern North Carolina made up the state of North Carolina, it would rank as the second most obese state in the nation.

Too busy to exercise? These prototype workstations have computers attached to treadmills so workers can burn calories while they work.

“ECU is doing more for ECU employee wellness than most people realize,” said McDonald. “At the Student Recreation Center we offer programming throughout the year that is available to both members and nonmembers. I don’t think a lot of people realize that you don’t have to be a member to participate in many of our programs.”

Joyner plans to apply some of what she learned at the ECU Employee Health and Fitness Day to her lifestyle, saying she wants to “try to eat better, watch my calories, and just pay more attention to what I’m eating.”

ECU also has more involved programs to help its faculty, staff, and students improve their health and wellbeing. The Advisory Council Team for Wellness Education Leadership (ACT-WEL) is an interdisciplinary network whose mission is to create a culture of wellness throughout the ECU community and promote wellbeing through healthy lifestyle choices. The Employee Wellness Institute is a 10-week course for faculty and staff that offers practical classes on topics like fitness, nutrition, stress management, time management, and financial wellness.

But what about someone who is interested in getting healthy, but doesn’t know where to begin? McDonald says that there is help for him or her as well. “Anyone at the Student Rec Center is willing to talk with anyone who has individual questions or wants to know how to get started,” she said.

Exercise, like anything else, is better when it’s fun. Judging by the looks on the faces of the walkers as the crossed the finish line of the power walk, ECU’s Employee Health and Fitness day was exercise at its best.