The fourth annual Pac-10 Fitness Challenge kicks off this week in an effort to encourage students, faculty and staff to maintain healthy levels of physical activity. The conference-wide initiative promotes an active lifestyle by having participants record the time they spend working out and then comparing every school’s total at the end of the week.
Stanford has won the fitness challenge every year since it started four years ago.
“So that’s our claim,” said senior associate athletic director Eric Stein. “We have the fittest campus and most active campus in the Pac-10.”
Laptops are set up in Arrillaga’s lobby for students to register on the fitness challenge website throughout this week. After registering, they can log onto the website and record the time they’ve spent exercising.
“It’s really about promoting good health and physical activity and keeping that a part of everybody’s routine,” said Jennifer Sexton, coordinator of fitness and wellness programs. “And friendly competition is always fun–it brings the campus together as a collective to participate in something at the conference level.”
The fitness challenge extends the benefits of competition-based exercise to students who don’t usually get that kind of motivation for their workouts.
Stein remembers meeting a participant in the contest four years ago who was in the process of eagerly logging his hours into a laptop at Arrillaga.
“Here was a recreational athlete that would probably get hurt on a football field or crushed on a basketball field,” Stein said. With this program, “people can go out on their own and get their workout in and be part of something that is really big.”
The challenge allows participants to log up to two hours of physical exercise per day.
“We wanted to make the time limit reasonable,” Sexton said. “We didn’t want to encourage people overdoing it,” she added.
Last year, some 3,200 members of the Stanford community participated in the challenge. Sexton thinks that the contest is more recognized by students this year than in years past.
“I think one of the things that we’re noticing…is that by now people know about it,” Sexton said.
Volunteers for the fitness challenge stationed in Arrillaga say that participation could still be higher, though.
“It’s going pretty well, but it hasn’t been too busy,” said Annie Fryman ’14, who was volunteering at the station set up in the lobby of Arrillaga. “A lot of people want free T-shirts and Luna bars, which is definitely motivating them to register.”
Regardless of whether or not the challenge really garners the desired amount of participation or enthusiasm, virtually everyone agreed that Stanford is an especially healthy and physically active campus.
The fitness challenge is just one of the many ways that programs at Stanford are trying to promote physical health. Sexton also cited the BeWell program, various healthy dining initiatives, P.E. classes, club sports and group fitness opportunities.
“I think we’ve got great resources here on campus for students and faculty and staff,” she said. “Sometimes you get busy and these things get lost so [those resources] are just trying to keep them in the forefront.”
“I know a lot of people who…were not physically active before and have since made the decision to become physically active because everyone around them is,” Fryman said.
“It’s almost contagious,” she added.
Amy Harris ’14 agreed.
“Everywhere you go you see somewhere biking or running or running to their sports practice,” she said.