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Updated 10:30 AM January 16, 2009




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New Active U divisions to spark participation, fun

Now in its fourth year, Active U organizers have expanded the faculty-staff activity program from eight to 10 weeks, created new divisions to encourage competition and added new awards so more individuals and teams can be recognized for their achievements.

A new Fitness Blog feature on the Active U Web site will allow participants to ask experts fitness and activity questions. Both questions and answers will be available for all to see — without identifying questioners — to provide useful information to all.

But a key reason for participating doesn't change.

"Fitness is fun. We haven't really found anyone who hasn't had fun doing Active U," says Colleen Greene, MHealthy wellness coordinator.

The program, which encourages participants to record activity minutes to boost fitness and health, runs Feb. 3-April 14. Faculty and staff can register now at

Returning features of the program include free use of University gym facilities; weekly prizes including U-M fitness center memberships, personal training sessions and iPods; and free Active U T-shirts for those who participate in at least four of the first five program weeks. Cash prizes including a $500 grand prize are available for those who log activity minutes in at least seven of the 10 program weeks and complete a survey.

"To create a community of health we need to encourage and motivate people to action, and physical activity is one of the most important things we can do for our health," says LaVaughn Palma-Davis, senior director, Health and Well-Being Services.

"There are just so many benefits to us as individuals to be physically active particularly at this time of the year when it's harder to do so. The goal is to get us moving and enjoying physical activity."

While 8,500 faculty and staff participated in Active U's inaugural year, that number surged to just short of 10,000 in 2008. "We're hoping for more this year," Greene says.

"It's been an incentive for me to keep going," says Active U participant Carol Acitelli, an administrative assistant at Graduate School Administration. Acitelli, who says she successfully lost "quite a bit of weight" several years ago, uses Active U and continued activities to help keep the weight off.

To meet her Active U activity goals, Acitelli says she walks on her lunch hour five days each week. "I walk all around campus and also down State Street by the Broadway Bridge — anywhere from a half hour to 50 minutes." She also does weight training.

With experts in recent years saying that employer programs to encourage employee health and fitness are effective in reducing health care costs and encouraging healthy employees, the success of Active U is drawing notice.

"We keep getting e-mails and phone calls from other universities asking about Active U — they want it for themselves," Greene says.

Active U promoters say they've been listening to feedback from those who've participated in previous years. Greene says it's notable that many past participants say they tend to stick with the program when they team up with co-workers for activities.

This year's division setup allows teams to choose whom they'll compete against, regardless of the number of members in those competing teams. A team's standing will be based on average activity minutes per member. The new divisions this year are Go Blue, Yost, Wolverines, Victors, Maize, Union, Elbel, The Big House, Wolves, The Rock and Coliseum.

Active U also is open to graduate students and retirees and is designed for every fitness level. Participants must register by Feb. 3. The program also traditionally raises money for charity.

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