It’s an ambitious goal. On Oct. 9, 2017, Apollo-Ridge School District launched what it calls 200 Days of Fitness. The goal is for participants to either walk 10,000 steps or complete 30 minutes of physical activity during 160 of the challenge's 200 days. With more than 25 percent of the school staff committed to the program, which will last most of the school year, it’s one the district is proud to host.
Each autumn and spring, the Forum of Western Pennsylvania Superintendents gathers for a conference. In autumn 2015, the focus was health and wellness.
“There was a lot of discussion on the importance of fitness and things you can do in the office,” says Matt Curci, superintendent of Apollo-Ridge School District. “I could relate because I know I struggle to find the time.”
A couple faculty members from University of Pittsburgh came to talk to Curci's administrative team, and the discussion inspired the group to test a pilot program over the summer of 2016: 50 Days of Fitness.
The rules were simple. Participants had to log 30 minutes of activity or 10,000 steps per day for 50 days. Curci posted videos of simple activities a person can perform in the office. The administrative team decided to expand the program to the entire district so staff members could do something together.
After the success of the pilot program, the district riased the bar and launched 100 Days of Fitness for the 2016-17 school year. Some schools took it upon themselves to promote ambitious activities such as the Biggest Loser or various walking challenges within the greater initiative.
“The 100 Days was not about weight loss or a particular exercise,” Curci says. “You can lift weights, walk, swim, run … whatever. It’s entirely up to you. We really want to promote wellness and the school community.”
Staff members got creative with the flexibility. People got together to walk before, during and after school. Others formed exercise groups. The elementary school opened the gym each morning and played music while staff members shot hoops or walked laps.
It worked. Nearly 70 people participated. Everyone received a pedometer at the beginning — the devices were donations from Highmark — and every participant who successfully logged 85 days of activity within the 100 days earned a Viking Strong T-shirt. But not everyone earned a shirt.
“I didn’t meet the goal,” he says. “Life happens! But everyone still appreciated the incentive.”
Keeping track of approximately 70 participants’ daily activities for 100 days can be daunting. Apollo-Ridge used Teams App and participants, using the honor system, logged on and marked each day they completed their activity or steps. There was no requirement to specify activities. Horseback riding, mowing the lawn, walking, a gym workout, office workout — all were considered valid forms of exercise. Curci enjoyed following the conversations within the Team App comments section.
“People asked, ‘What is the craziest thing you did to earn your activity mark?’, and there were many stories of walking laps inside the house to get steps, and looks of confusion from spouses, kids and dogs,” he says. “One time I walked in and out of the library stacks between meetings just to get my steps.”
Upping the ante again
For the 2017-18 year, Apollo-Ridge nearly doubled the fitness challenge goal to 160 days of activity within 200 days. The challenge started Oct. 9 and will run through April 26. It’s organized just like the 100 Days of Fitness and, once again, Highmark donated pedometers.
The participation rate for the 200 Days of Fitness is slightly lower than it was for last year's challenge. Curci is determined to earn his T-shirt this year, but he is already running a little tight on time. To meet the 160-day goal, a participant needs to average four days of activity each week.
“It’s difficult,” Curci says. “But what’s more important than wellness? It’s essential to home, work, family. To all aspects of life.”