When engaging virtual teams in health and wellness it is helpful to support participants in contributing to something larger than themselves. This is what the National School of Business did in forming a team, SBstepsitup, to join the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual Billion Steps Challenge. The SBstepsitup team contributed 440,900 collective steps with a 4,281 daily average to the almost 6,000 people globally that completed 1,802,740,734 steps together. The challenge begins each year in January commencing after National Public Health Week in April. Supporting health promotion efforts including Step it Up: The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, the challenge advocates for ways to facilitate inclusive opportunities for all people to be physically active in their communities. This means enabling larger conversations about the intersections between community design and active living. 

SBstepsitup started with two faculty members coming together to brainstorm ways to contribute to the School’s wellness committee, sharing their idea with the Dean, and then during the School’s monthly meeting. The entire school was included in voting on a team name and a faculty member then posted instructions about how to join the team in the University social media platform, The Commons. These instructions included the link to join the team and use the app, WalkerTracker, APHA used to track all of those steps. Participants enabled Apple Health on their phone, used the android version, or synced the app with their fitness tracker during set up. There are several options within the app to allow for notifications, updates, and to join teams and challenges (figure 1).

Although the challenge started January 1, faculty and staff were encouraged to join at any time. Other messages, both in the app (figure 2) and in The Commons, were posted to encourage participation such as scientific evidence that each step is healthful (encouraging micro workouts), the far reaching benefits of physical activity (including productivitystress reduction, and all cause morbidity and mortality), and that the newer Physical Activity Guidelines include EVERY minute of physical activity throughout the day has health benefits.  What’s next? Perhaps a heath challenge that has more inclusive measure for activities not fully captured in steps (yoga, strength training etc.)…and joining again next year!

Carissa Smock
Associate Professor, School of Business