Little Rock — The Blue & You Fitness Challenge celebrates its 15th year in 2018 with an expanded purpose and new theme. When the Challenge launched in 2004, its purpose was to encourage people to increase their cardiovascular activity. The new theme of “Start your fitness journey” allows participants to track their activity on a new interactive website and get health tips along the way. “Our 15th year is the perfect opportunity to encourage our participants’ overall health,” said Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “The Challenge has evolved over the years, thanks to our participants telling us what they need to be successful, but its core remains the same: to encourage people to take small steps, every day, to work toward fitness. It really is a journey.” The Challenge is hosted by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Participants from around the United States enter this three-month competition and gain points based on their activities. The Challenge’s website underwent a major makeover that features an interactive map. For each day participants log activity, they will earn a star at a location on the map. Each star gives participants messages – health tips for how they can prioritize health in a small but meaningful way. In order to complete the Challenge, participants must earn 30 stars, replacing previous years’ 30 points. “The new messages align more closely with the Challenge’s expanded purpose: that good health habits aren’t just about the gym,” explained Barnett. “What you eat, your emotional state, being rested – those habits matter, too. We also want to remind people that we know it’s easy to get discouraged when we fall off the health-wagon, but really – all of us, myself included – can start or restart being healthy, anytime.” Other new features of the 2018 contest allow participants to log eligible calisthenics, free weights, Pilates, resistance bands and weight machines. Also, participants can log multiple days of activities at one time. “Our participants completed surveys and their answers showed us this is what they wanted,” said Linda Kyzer, wellness program manager at Arkansas Blue Cross and the Challenge’s committee leader. “We hope these new features help past participants and attract new ones.” The Fitness Challenge begins March 1 of every year. Businesses use the event as part of their wellness programs, while friends and family use the contest as a chance to stay or get in shape, infuse new energy into their routines, remain connected and have fun. Group registration for the Challenge ends February 14; the deadline for individuals inside groups is February 28. For more information, call 1-800-686-2609 or visit blueandyoufitnesschallenge-ark.com. 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. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is comprised of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 106 million members — one in three Americans. About Arkansas Department of Health The mission of Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is to protect and improve the health and well-being of all Arkansans. The ADH accomplishes this mission by responding to outbreaks and other public health emergencies, implementing programs to educate and improve health outcomes, licensing and certification of professionals and facilities, and providing evidence-based preventive health services in communities throughout the state. In 2016, the ADH received national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. About Arkansas Department of Human Services The mission of the Arkansas Department of Human Services is to improve the quality of life of all Arkansans by protecting the vulnerable, fostering independence and promoting better health through a wide array of services, public assistance programs and licensing and regulatory functions.