Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wellness Challenge Yields Results for Mayo Residents and Fellows

Patricia Lindholm, MD,
Immediate Past MMA President
I recently had a conversation with Noel So, M.D., (pronounced like Noelle) a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Mayo, who wanted me to share information about a unique wellness activity, she and Mark Steffen, M.D., preventive medicine resident, are co-chairing-- the Mayo Fellows Association (MFA) Wellness Challenge.

The event that commences December 1 builds on the success of the previous MFA Wellness Challenge, which was a 12-week program, chaired by Christopher Weight, M.D. A total of 630 residents and fellows, or about half of those at Mayo, participated in the first Wellness Survey, and about 230 went on to enrolled in the MFA Wellness Exam at a cost of $5 per person. The exam measured fitness parameters including body mass index (BMI), percent body fat, and VO2 max. 46 teams of five people competed for the grand prize, which was a trip to the Olympics. The teams earned points for activities such as time at the gym, number of steps walked (measured by pedometers), participation in pre- and post- activity surveys and wellness exams. Another innovative activity was “Climb the Clinic” that involved walking up and down the stairs in five Mayo buildings. ID badges given to each participant were scanned at the bottom and top of each stairwell to record completion times. Dr. So tells me that the presence of the 46 competing teams fostered positive peer pressure that yielded the greatest amount of physical activity. The points earned by each team equaled the number of raffle entries each team received for the grand prize Olympics trip.

Other prizes were awarded for:
The biggest loser of fat (without being underweight)
The fittest female/fittest male (the best VO2 max)

Challenge Results
Some statistics from first wellness challenge:

Collectively the participants walked 171,008,824 steps which is equivalent to 3.4 times around the Earth at the equator;
Over 10,000 trips to the gym; and 
189 completed wellness evaluations.

After the event, a survey was sent to all Mayo residents and fellows about burnout and emotional health. The Wellness Challenge participants as a group reported less burnout, better sleep and better nutrition. The coordinating committee for the Wellness Challenge is clearly a research-oriented group.  It was noted that after the event was over there was decreased gym attendance, although it is possible that people were exercising more outdoors in milder weather, since the challenge started January 1st.  One question that was raised is how to maintain the motivation of participants to maintain fitness after the formal monitoring period.  

Social Media
The 2nd Annual Wellness Challenge will be extended to 16 weeks.  Dr. So, Dr. Steffen, and the committee will be studying the impact of social media on participation in the challenge. The challenge already has a page on Facebook, which is a social medium that I'm familiar with, but I was educated by Dr. So about Yammer, which is a workplace-based social medium using work e-mail addresses.
The MFA Athletic Committee has also introduced the concept of “walking meetings” instead of sitting around a table, so that exercise is integrated into the meeting. They are hoping to incorporate it into the Mayo culture.  

Following in their Footsteps
This challenge is a very ambitious undertaking and may seem daunting to some of us, but consider what we can do in our own workplaces and communities.  I think any of us can use the concept of monitoring with pedometers as a competitive activity, and perhaps find other parameters that are easily measured.  I am going to challenge my local partners who are fitness enthusiasts to design a fun incentivizing wellness program for our group.
If anyone is looking to do research more broadly on the effects of physical fitness on the mental, emotional and physical health of physicians, I think we can round up quite a few physician subjects across Minnesota.  I hope someone will take me up on this challenge!