BU Employees Take “Extra Steps” To Fitness

For Immediate Release

November 2, 2005

BLOOMSBURG—More than 90 Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania faculty and staff will launch the “Extra Steps” walking program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of Andruss Library and a ceremonial lap around the quad Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 2 p.m.

Sponsored by BU’s Nursing Department Wellness Center, in conjunction with the human resources department, exercise science department, president’s office and Geisinger Health Plan, the Extra Steps program encourages employees to mix exercise into their everyday activities, said Health and Wellness Committee member Catherine Albert. Jill Leas, a senior nursing student from York, is helping to implement this program as part of her student leadership project.

The Extra Steps program involves counting every step walked during the day on pedometers provided through a grant from the president’s office and start-up funds from BU’s human resources department. A total of 2,000 steps equals about one mile and a person should walk a minimum of five miles a day, according to Noreen Chikotas, assistant professor of nursing.

In addition to a pedometer, each participant will receive a log booklet, a free subscription to the Web-based program EveryStepCounts.com and a map outlining walking paths around campus. Each is eligible to earn incentive gifts, including a water bottle at 500,000 steps and a T-shirt at 1 million steps, both provided by Geisinger Health Plan.

Geisinger Health Plan, which provides insurance benefits for many Bloomsburg University employees, offers the Extra Steps program to member businesses. “Our goal is to increase activity level through setting and achieving personal walking goals,” said Shawna Hernandez, Geisinger Health Plan’s wellness coordinator. “Participating in the Extra Steps program is the first step to taking control of your weight, health and life.”

Hernandez pointed out that taking part in a regular walking program can lower the risks of diseases like diabetes, stroke and cancer, reduce stress and promote deeper sleep. Ultimately, these steps lower health care costs.

“This program builds on all that has gone before,” Albert said, “including a nursing department health risk appraisal completed in 2003 and financed by the human resources department. That survey showed that 74 percent of respondents were above their recommended weight range and 66 percent needed to improve their physical fitness.”

Individuals and campus groups have pursued fitness activities both formally and informally, including a campus-based weight loss program, aerobics classes, lunchtime walking groups and expanded use of the adult fitness center in Centennial Hall and the Student Recreation Center.

“All of these individual programs, along with Extra Steps, fit with the nationwide trend for fitness at work. Employees are trying to take preventive measures to keep health care costs down but, even more important, they want to increase their energy level and feel healthy,” Albert said.

Based on the survey results and interest in these programs, Albert said the committee plans to further develop the BU Health and Wellness Program as an umbrella for health promotion activities across the campus.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students and offers 65 bachelor’s, 18 master’s and one doctoral degree.

Geisinger Health Plan, begun in 1985, is headquartered in Danville, Pa., and is one of the nation’s largest rural HMOs. GHP serves more than 210,000 members in 40 counties. Members of the Health Plan have access to complete health-care benefits, from preventive care and routine office visits to hospital care and surgery; and an extensive network of primary care physicians, including affiliations with hospitals, pharmacies, and home health and rehabilitation services. Coverage is available for businesses of all sizes, individuals and families, and Medicare beneficiaries. PPO, self-funded and indemnity plans are sold through its affiliate, Geisinger Indemnity Insurance Company.