A personal benefit that was priceless’
After Fidelity Senior Manager in Finance Angeline Mahwendepi had a baby, she started running to stay fit. She ran three times a week thinking that was enough to keep her fit and healthy. The trouble was that when she wasn’t running, she was quite inactive.
A corporate wellness programme initiated by Colonial Insurance helped to catapult Mrs Mahwendepi and many colleagues into a greater level of fitness.
Earlier this year the Colonial Group signed an exclusive deal with global fitness programme Virgin Pulse, a member of Sir Richard Branson’s famed Virgin Group. The programme works through an online health portal, which helps to keep administration costs down and which centralises information making it easily available to participants. Virgin Pulse has also integrated the latest technology from social, gaming, devices and mobile apps.
The programme also arranges corporate challenges, where teams in one company battle against another company for the most fitness points. Fitness points are acquired through number of steps walked over a certain period and also through other activities like attending lunch time lectures, or undergoing a biometrics assessment.
The Fidelity team, that included Mrs Mahwendepi, Chris Lemieux, Annette Lewis, and Wendy Frith, won the last corporate challenge, and Mrs Mahwendepi won over all with the most steps. She logged in 561,298 steps over a period of a month.
“I had a baby two years ago,” said Mrs Mahwendepi. “I found it really difficult to get into physical activities again and lose some weight. I joined the challenge to motivate myself and to keep fit.”
As part of the programme, every participant received their own pedometer to measure the number of steps they took in a day. The recommended bare minimum is 10,000 steps per day.
“Initially, it was a shock to realise how inactive I was during the day,” Mrs Mahwendepi said. “You sit at a desk the whole day and get less than 3,000 steps.”
She was already getting up at 5.30am to go for a run several times a week. She added walking on the days she didn’t run. She also worked hard to identify ways to build more steps into her day. Now she walks to church or the grocery store and goes for a walk at lunch time instead of eating at her desk. She also racks up steps just playing on the playground with her young daughter. On days that she runs she clocks up 20,000 steps and on days that she just walks she takes about 15,000 steps.
“I can’t say I did anything that was exceptional,” she said. “I didn’t lose as much weight as I thought. It shows you the calories that you burn. Ultimately, though, I feel much better about myself.”
Some of her teammates took a biometrics assessment to gain points. Some of them were surprised to find that they were not as flexible as they thought and about ten years older in body than in chronological age, even though they were regular walkers. Through the programme, they have been getting younger, at least physically.
Carlos Rego, Fidelity Human Resource Manager, said the programme was offered as an added benefit to anyone enrolled in Colonial’s Premier Health programme. About three quarters of the Fidelity staff took part.
“Initially, when Colonial went live with it not too many people signed up,” said Mr Rego. “But Colonial did a wellness showcase where they came to Fidelity with other service providers. They unrolled the Virgin Pulse programme and did blood pressure checks and that sort of thing. After that, a lot of people signed up, right there and then.”
Fidelity is offering small rewards on a quarterly basis to employees who do well in the programme including a $50 gift card to either iTunes, Brown & Company or Nonna’s restaurant.
But Mrs Mahwendepi said it was not about material reward.
“The way I view it, it is more of a personal benefit to myself,” she said. “To me that was priceless.”
Colonial is pleased with the success of the programme so far. In one month all of the participants took 13,657,354 steps — roughly the equivalent of walking the length of Bermuda about 65 times.
Jacqueline Perreault, Colonial’s Corporate Wellness Director, described the total amount of steps as “remarkable” and added: “People have been taking their involvement in the Virgin Pulse programme very seriously.
“The programme is about a lot more than just walking,” she said. “It gives participants challenges, like drinking so much water a day. I think it is fair to say that the number of steps is indicative of people taking a much bigger interest in their overall health. Bermuda has a lot of health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, and I am delighted that Colonial is playing its part by using the Virgin Pulse programme to get people to take their health seriously.”
Now other employees at Fidelity are forming teams for the next corporate challenge.
“You should hear the trash talk in the office,” said Mr Lemieux with a laugh. “One guy stopped me on the stairs and said we better be ready because his team was going to beat us the next time.”