Emory employees got moving – virtually – during the 5th annual Move More Challenge

By Melissa Morgan | Emory Report | June 2, 2020

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Nearly 5,000 employees of Emory University and Emory Healthcare got more physically active and learned about healthy habits during the annual Move More Challenge – despite the circumstances of COVID-19.

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This spring, nearly 5,000 Emory employees laced up their shoes to participate in the annual Move More Challenge. This year’s six-week program began March 23 and continued as planned through May 3, despite occurring during the coronavirus pandemic. In this fifth year of the program, employees used Healthy Emory Connect (powered by Virgin Pulse) to stay connected with teammates and coworkers even while many worked from home. 

Over 800 teams virtually traveled together during the challenge, working through stages to “Step it Up to a Better You” and learn about physical activity, nutrition, stress management and other healthy tips and tricks.

Participants enjoyed the Move More Challenge despite the circumstances. Lauri Bernard from The Carter Center shared that she wasn’t as excited about participating as in prior years until a colleague and team leader emailed her about joining a team.

“I inhaled deeply and joined,” Bernard says. “By the time the challenge began, we were working from home due to coronavirus. I truly believe the Move More Challenge helped me not only remain active while consistently remaining in my home, but also helped contribute to my mental health during this trying time.

“The challenge also contributed to my social well-being because I'd exercise using Zoom with others,” Bernard adds. “Plus, the team held 'cocktail' hours for us to encourage one another in our goals. I went from not wanting to participate in the challenge this year to it being one of my most enjoyable MMCs.”

Derek Lacey, a public safety officer from Emory University Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital, liked the competition aspect of the challenge. “What I enjoyed the most was the healthy competition between my group and other groups,” he says. “I especially liked that on the last day of the competition we unified together as a group and surpassed a group that we had been trailing the whole time. That was awesome!”

Participants like Analise Pavlisin from Winship Cancer Institute were also able to learn more about Emory and the walking areas available on campus.

“Through the Move More Challenge, I strove to increase my steps by getting out and walking/jogging more,” she says. “By doing this, I discovered many of the beautiful trails and waterfalls around Emory. This challenge helped me earn numerous points toward my insurance, get out into nature and learn about some of the history surrounding the Emory campus.”

“It was more heartwarming than ever to hear the ways this year’s program benefited employees,” says senior wellness manager Melissa Morgan. “It felt great to know that we were able to help bring a little positivity to people during a time of great stress and uncertainty.”

Incentives and winners

Participants who responded to the post-program survey reported that their favorite part of the Move More Challenge was the opportunity to earn points toward their Emory medical plan incentives. In addition, those who met certain step thresholds racked up 5,000 or 10,000 bonus points at the end of the challenge. 

Participants also had the opportunity to win Pulse Cash, a feature on Healthy Emory Connect that allows winners to choose how to use rewards. And Challenge participants enjoyed Surprise Prizes for a second year, randomly awarded to any participant who achieved 6,000+ steps on a given “surprise day.” More than 600 prizes were awarded during the 2020 program. 

This year the top 100 steppers each walked more than 820,000 steps. Forty-one employees reached more than 1 million steps despite the shorter, six-week length of this year’s challenge.

Keeping it going

Although the challenge may be over for now, Morgan says she hopes the awareness gained from the experience of “moving more” will stay in the minds of Emory employees. Healthy Emory will continue to have “surprise days” throughout the summer where Healthy Emory Connect users can earn an extra 500 points for walking 6,000+ steps.

“Continue moving to reap the physical and mental health benefits,” she says. “Find activities that you enjoy and keep setting new personal goals.”