; Blue & You Fitness Challenge Kicks off Another Year of Fitness
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Press Release

Blue & You Fitness Challenge Kicks off Another Year of Fitness

10,400 participants competing in the 2013 contest

March 7, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – Representatives from companies and groups throughout Arkansas and the nation gathered today to kick off of the 2013 Blue & You Fitness Challenge held at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Groups and individuals pledged to “stop wondering what fit feels like and start enjoying what “it feels like to be fit” at the kickoff event as companies and groups made their commitment to exercise 30, 60 or 92 checkpoints and advance virtually across America.

The exercise competition has grown from two entities in 2004 to 128 groups with almost 10,400 employees/individuals competing in 2013. The Blue & You Fitness Challenge began March 1 and runs through May 31 and is hosted by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The Challenge encourages employees to work toward the public health recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity each day for adults, most days of the week.

“Thousands of people are making a move toward better health by participating in the Challenge this year,” said Richard Cooper, vice president of Human Resources for Arkansas Blue Cross and team champion for the Challenge.”

During the contest, participants engage in eligible cardiovascular-oriented exercises to work their way through at least 30 virtual checkpoints across America during the three-month contest, although 92 checkpoints (the number of total days of the contest) are on the virtual map. Participants exercise through all state capitals, many national parks and some interesting places in between.

Blue & You Fitness Challenge participants register and log their exercise online at BlueAndYouFitnessChallenge-ark.com. Participants are able to watch real-time data to see how their stats compare to others in the competition. The winning entity is determined by the greatest group participation and the highest scores in four categories.

“At DHS, our more than 7,500 employees take care of our citizens across the state every day. We want them to take care of themselves, too, and that’s why the Blue & You Fitness Challenge is so important,” said Steven Jones, deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. “The Blue & You Fitness Challenge gives everyone a chance to start fresh each year and it gives DHS a chance to promote healthy habits at work. Regular exercise is a good way to reduce stress, battle the effects of working at a desk job every day and improve cardiovascular health. Healthy employees are more productive people who will live longer, better lives. We are proud that this home-grown program has put Arkansas in the national spotlight for promoting worksite wellness.”

“Arkansans are lagging behind the rest of the country in the amount of regular physical activity they get and in proper daily nutrition. Three out of four of our high school students did not attend physical education classes five days in an average week, and four out of five adults don’t meet exercise guidelines,” said Nate Smith, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Director for Public Health Programs at the Arkansas Department of Health. “Most of us—almost nine out of ten—don’t eat the right kind of food every day.”

“In the last ten years, Arkansas businesses have made great strides in improving access to exercise facilities, better nutritional options and physical activities. They have in some cases even offered incentives for participation in those programs using days off or discounts on health insurance as rewards. Employers recognized that rising costs of our declining health, the value of lost productivity and the pressure of rising medical costs could be countered effectively and economically with worksite wellness programs. The good news is that research finds that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar invested in workplace wellness programs.

“We believe programs like the Blue & You Fitness Challenge are a fun, motivational way to help begin to change lifestyles and improve overall health,” Smith said.

About Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Founded in 1948, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest health insurer in Arkansas. Arkansas Blue Cross and its affiliates have more than 2,800 employees. If combined, the 38 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans collectively provide health care coverage for 100 million – nearly one in three – Americans.

About Arkansas Department of Health
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is a centralized health department, operating health units in each of the state’s 75 counties. County governments provide facilities and support for the clinical, environmental and home health services offered by the agency. The mission of the Department is to promote public health policies and practices that assure a healthy quality of life for Arkansans. ADH works to protect, improve and promote the health of all Arkansans with the support of more than 5,000 dedicated employees and public and private partners. During each year, Department employees monitor and investigate public health disease and threats, provide preventative and personal health services in clinical and in-home settings, provide education and enforce laws and regulations, support Hometown Health Improvement, promote healthy behaviors, respond to public health emergencies and educate and monitor industries that impact the public’s health.

About Arkansas Department of Human Services
The Arkansas Department of Human Services provides a wide range of social services to more than a million Arkansas citizens each year through its programs and private providers. DHS is the largest department of the executive branch of state government. It has more than 7,000 employees and consists of 10 divisions and six support offices. DHS maintains offices in each of the state’s 75 counties where a person can apply for all the services DHS offers. Services are provided to people from all walks of life and all ages. Major programs, which fall under the Arkansas Department of Human Services, include the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, and the Medicaid program, which account for the largest part of the department’s $5.8 billion annual budget.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 37 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 100 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.