Stepping into the New Year
By Lindsay Peyton
There’s no better time than the New Year to start on the right foot and resolve to adopt healthier habits for the months ahead. For clergy and their spouse, the Texas Annual Conference offers incentives to stay on track, one foot in front of the other, to set and reach fitness goals in 2021.
Signing up for the TAC Walking Program is simple, Nancy Slade, administrative assistant for the Center for Clergy Excellence, explained. Any clergy or spouse enrolled in the Conference’s Group Health plan may join online by visiting join.virginpulse.com/Wespath.
After completing a brief questionnaire, download the Virgin Pulse App onto your iPhone or Android phone. Then, order a Virgin Pulse MAX pedometer, Max Buzz or other eligible tracker listed on the Virgin Pulse website.
The pedometer tracks each’s participant’s steps for the day. By synching with the App, the amount of activity can then be logged on a personalized webpage.
“Then you can collect points,” Slade said. “When you reach certain levels, you gain the incentives.”
She explained that points can be earned by tracking physical activity on the pedometer. For example, 10 points are given for each 1,000 steps, with a maximum 140 points or 14,000 steps per day.
“You earn points not only through the steps you take but also through doing ‘Healthy Habits’ and the ‘Daily Cards’ on the App,” Slade added.
That can include a tip to drink more water, eat fruit or spend some time reading. “You can set up all of these little triggers in your brain to be healthy – and you get points too,” Slade said.
All of the points add up to monetary rewards, which can be converted to gift cards or directly deposited into an individual’s bank account. For instance, 1,000 points is worth $5, 5,000 points is an additional $15 and 10,000 an additional $25.
In total, an individual can gain 15,000 points and earn $75 per quarter. In a year, participants can be rewarded up to $300. Rewards are calculated quarterly.
Participants may also challenge each other or various groups – and earn more points by meeting the test. In the past, districts in the TAC have challenged each other to meet fitness goals.
The Walking Program launched in 2013, through a partnership with the TAC and the Center for Health, a division of Wespath. The program is administered by Virgin Pulse.
Slade signed up right away. “For me, it’s been very encouraging,” she said. “It’s definitely a motivator. Every morning, I wake up to see how I slept on my tracker. Then I look at my hints and cards on the App. You end up checking your steps throughout the day.”
Sometimes, when a goal is within reach, Slade will move into action. “You might get up and walk around to get to the next level,” she said with a laugh.
About half of the clergy and spouses in the TAC are enrolled in the program, and Slade hopes more will join.
“Different things motivate people,” she said. “For some, the program is a pat on the back, and others like the gifts. Some people like the benefit of just feeling better, going for a walk and eating better.”
In the past year, the importance of health has taken centerstage, Slade explained. Walking has numerous benefits – from increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness to improving balance and strength. Studies are showing that walking can even reduce the risk of heart disease and help with the management of high cholesterol, stiffness, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Walking also has emotional benefits and can alleviate stress, Slade added. “I’ve heard clergy and spouses thank the TAC for having the program,” she said. “It helps them get off the couch after dinner, walk and talk, and connect with each other.”
The earlier they enroll and become active, the sooner they will see the benefits, Slade said.
“We’re seeing more and more that it’s not heredity but lifestyle that determines health, especially in later years,” she added. “Let’s all move more in 2021.”
For more information, visit txcumc.org/walkingprogram.