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County of Barrhead wellness challenge: a movement across Canada!

July 24, 2019

By the time the County of Barrhead’s spring 2019 health and wellness challenge finished this past May, their participants had walked across Canada, built relationships between elected officials, field staff and office workers, and adopted sustainable, healthy habits.

How did they do it?

In early 2019, County of Barrhead staff had three big goals in mind:

  • Encourage staff to take full advantage of the municipality’s health and wellness benefits programs and public amenities
  • Emphasize mental and physical health in an inclusive way for all employees
  • Promote teambuilding across three groups of staff that might not interact regularly: elected officials, office staff, and front-line staff who worked out in the field

With the approval of their CAO, staff got to work planning the challenge, which ran from March through May 2019.

“The word ‘fitness’ in ‘corporate fitness challenge’ often scares people off because they find it intimidating,” said Lindsay Ellwein, Municipal Clerk for the County of Barrhead. “With our challenge, it was important for it to not be about esthetics because that wasn’t in line with what we wanted to achieve. That led to our idea of monitoring success for participants not by weigh-ins, but by time increments.”

Participants in the challenge – 90 per cent of County of Barrhead staff! – logged activity in 15-minute increments and received points for each block of time. A point was equivalent to one kilometre in distance. Staff were encouraged to log whatever enjoyable physical activity they wanted, from winter sports like snowmobiling and snowshoeing to activities like walking and bicycling and even gardening. This allowed the participation of all motivated employees regardless of fitness levels and abilities.

At the end of week one, the total minutes accumulated was equivalent to walking across the entire County of Barrhead, plus some. Because of the immediate success, teams were then challenged to try to walk across Canada. To encourage them in their quest, a map of Canada was strategically located in the County office. It outlined the distance walked by each team, which then developed into some friendly rivalry to see which team could remain at the top each week.

The outcomes from the program were quite impactful for the County.

We will tell you more in next week’s Digest, including tips and tricks for other municipalities looking to roll out similar wellness challenges, and what’s next for County of Barrhead staff.