November 15, 2012

From the Toledo Free Press
By Kyle Cappelletty

About 1,700 Medical Mutual employees logged more than 900 million steps in six months as part of a companywide wellness challenge issued by the firm’s CEO.

The goal of the Chiricosta Challenge, named after Medical Mutual CEO Rick Chiricosta, was to engage employees in team-based exercise that promoted better health and wellness and to help employees make long-term changes in their exercise habits.

Eighty-six teams made up of 20 employees each competed to see who could walk or run the most steps. From April 16 to Oct. 12, participants collectively logged 929,292,901 steps, enough to circle the globe 16 times.

The number of steps was tracked using an ActiPed, a pedometer that tracks steps and records them electronically. Each employee in the challenge was given one of the high-tech pedometers to track their steps anywhere they went via a wireless radio receiver that automatically captures individualized data from the participant.

“If we keep at it, we can break a billion steps by the end of the year,” Chiricosta said. “The one billion step goal is possible because we will keep the ActiPeds up and running past the end date of the challenge.

“The pedometers will continue to register steps until March of next year and employees can still access the website to monitor their progress. We’re aiming to step it up and break a billion.”

The pedometer can be mounted to any kind of footwear and can differentiate between running and walking as it tracks a participant’s steps. The pedometers also measure activity levels and caloric burn with 98 percent accuracy.

“I have always been very active in ballroom dancing,” said participant Betty Nungester. “The challenge helped me to quantify the benefits of my exercise while I danced. I thought it was very interesting that the pedometer would classify the waltz as walking and the country two-step as running. The technology was really amazing and helped me to lose 30 pounds in six months.”

More than 300 Toledo area employees participated in the challenge, logging 145,023,467 steps. Of these steps, more than a million were walked by just 35 employees.

“This is how we walk the talk,” said participant Sharon Prueter. “The challenge is a great way to provide a positive example by showing our customers how they can integrate wellness and exercise into their daily activities.”The highest-placing Toledo team, Friends with Benefits, took eighth place in the competition and logged nearly 20 million steps.

“A lot of our team members work in the benefits department in the Toledo office, so our team name was a spinoff of that,” said Senior Benefit Administrator Brenda Beauregard. “A very interesting reality that I found during the competition was that the number of steps taken was determined by the length of your strides. I am shorter than a lot of people in the competition and finally this worked to my advantage because I had to take more steps to walk the same distance as others.”

Employees were also asked to relay stories and photos of where they and their ActiPeds traveled throughout the summer. Some employees, such as Debbie Frey, even took their pedometers with them on trips outside of the country.

“My pedometer went with me to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, where I spent five days each,” Frey said. “During my travels outside the country, I logged more than 30,000 steps and really enjoyed the competition.”

The three teams with the most steps received $450 for first place, $300 for second place and $150 for third place.