UK should include students in Fitbit challenge


This semester, UK launched a Step Up challenge for faculty and staff to promote health and wellness. Through the university, participants can purchase discounted Fitbits and compete for rewards. 

Most health professionals recommend 10,000 steps per day, and UK’s Step Up challenge gives the highest rewards for completing this task. However, the average American only logs about 5,900 steps per day, according to the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

College students may get more steps than the average American, but they are still prone to a sedentary lifestyle.  For many, it is easier than ever to monitor daily activity by using smartphone apps. Yet, students have no incentive to watch their steps closely.

“I know I have an app on my phone that counts (steps), but I don’t pay attention to that,” biology freshman Nicole Sivy said.

More than 8,500 employees have signed up for the challenge, which will likely increase the number of steps walked per day. Wellness Specialist and Fitness Facilities Manager Carrie Davidson said they have seen employees walk more than twice as much per day after the challenge.

Student reward programs exist, but not for health and wellness. Through the BBN Rewards program, students can receive prizes by attending UK athletic events.

“It sounds like fun,” international studies freshman Diego Cubas said. “Coming in as a freshman, people are always just like ‘the freshman 15,’  so that would be another incentive to help students stay healthy.”

Students will be incentivized to walk to class rather than take the bus or to go to the library to study rather than staying in their dorm. Just like the BBN Rewards program, prizes and competition with friends will be enough to create change.

Some students expressed confidence and interest in this challenge. 

“I mean, I walk a ton, so I feel like I could get the steps in pretty easy,” architecture sophomore Brock Johnson said. “I would definitely do it.”

The current Step Up Challenge cannot technically be expanded to students since the UK Health and Wellness program deals only with faculty and staff.

“Student population is not under our purview,” Health and Wellness Program Manager Jody Ensman said.

Nevertheless, the university should have an engaging rewards program for student health and wellness. The administration has already aligned itself with health promotion through its Tobacco-free Initiative, and argues UK is a healthy place to live, work and learn. What better way could there be to promote these values than support of an active, walking campus?

[email protected]