700 employees in St. Luke's system are taking steps for heart healthAbout 700 employees in the St. Luke’s system are wearing pedometers as part of the “St. Luke’s Step to a Healthy Heart Challenge.”
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Visitors to St. Luke’s hospital these days might hear a soft clicking sound as they pass through the hallways.
“There’s a little rhythmic click as you’re walking along if it’s on your shoe,” said Sierra Anderson, an exercise physiologist in the hospital’s cardiac diagnostic and rehab departments.
Then she described it: “Click-click. Click-click.”
Multiply that by 700, because that’s approximately the number of employees in the St. Luke’s system wearing pedometers as part of the “St. Luke’s Step to a Healthy Heart Challenge.”
The six-week event, which coincides with American Heart Month in February and leading up to the Go Red For Women luncheon in March, invites competition among departments to see which team’s members can average the most steps. The goal is to have the pedometer clicking away to at least 10,000 steps a day — the equivalent of a five-mile walk.
It doesn’t come automatically.
“I’m not where I should be, but I’ll get there,” said Julie Clark, cardiac services manager and originator of the contest. “I’ve only been going between 5 and 8 thousand.”
Her team members — a group of managers and a couple of hospital vice presidents who go by the name Mission Slim Possible — will help make sure she does.
“Because the teams get a little bit competitive, they encourage each other to do a little better,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of peer support.”
Many of the 42 teams employed hospital humor, or at least irony, in coming up with their names: The Replacements (orthopedics), Slow Pokers (infusion therapy/IV team), Butt-Heads (a team that includes gastroenterology and neurosurgery).
Although staffers have fun with the contest, there’s a serious purpose, said Dr. James Mohn, a cardiologist on the Heart Throbs team who said he has been breaking 10,000 steps per day since the contest began Jan. 13.
The focus on walking benefits employees and sets a good example for patients, Mohn said.
“Walking as a form of exercise is something we encourage because most patients can do it,” he said. “In a moderate walking program … if you achieve the same distance that the runners do it has similar cardiovascular benefits.”
It also calls attention to heart disease, which takes more lives than all forms of cancer combined, Mohn added.
Clark conceived of the program in 2012 and ordered 200 pedometers for the expected level of participation that year, she said. She had to place three additional orders for pedometers, and the 600 people who eventually participated over seven weeks walked more than 126 million steps.
After skipping last year, the contest brought even greater participation this time around. The 704 participants comprise about one in four people on the hospital’s workforce (including outlying clinics), spokeswoman Louise Ernewein said.
They walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator. They park at the far end of the parking lot. They walk during breaks and they walk on the job. Those who have dogs have another opportunity at home, said Anderson, 27, whose two dogs include an insistent puppy.
It takes those kinds of efforts to bring the level of walking up from the 3,000 to 5,000 steps the American Heart Association says the average person takes in a day.
Anderson, who is walking between 10 and 15 thousand steps a day, said exercise is a natural fit with her job and her lifestyle. But walking is something almost everyone can do, she said.
“We were designed to move,” Anderson said. “If you can find small ways to sneak in extra steps during the day, it can really help pay off with heart-healthy benefits later on.”