(Dec. 18, 2012) When Jacaranda Palmateer—director of counseling services in the Health and Counseling Center (HCC)—heard there would be a Thrive Across America program at the University of Denver, she was ready to sign up.
Having played Division I sports in college, she's always been active and maintained a regular habit of working out on her lunch breaks. Things changed with the birth of her third child.
"I went from working out 5-6 times a week to only two or three times," she says. "Thrive Across America was the motivation I needed."
Jacaranda manages a large team, so the team aspect of Thrive appealed to her.
"I invited my team to participate, and because they're very competitive, we set a goal to do 60 minutes of activity seven days a week. You didn't want to let anyone down, so it drove us to make the commitment every day."
And it paid off. HCC's team (named "How Does That Make You Feel") finished in the top spot, earning all its members iPads.
Jacaranda shares some keys to her—and the team's—success:
Hold more walking meetings. "It's a great opportunity to get in some activity time during the work day."
Find any and all ways to incorporate activity into your normal day. "Participating in the Thrive program forced me to change my mindset about routine activities in my day," she says. "I take my son to the Fisher Early Learning Center (on Evans and High), so I started walking to Fisher from the office, picking up my son and walking back to my car."
Rediscover the simple things. "Our dog is the real winner," Jacaranda notes. "I discovered renewed joy in walking my dog several times a week instead of just once or twice a week."
Now that the Thrive program at DU has ended, does Jacaranda plan to keep up the competitive pace?
"Long term, I intend to keep some of these behavior changes, although without the competition of Thrive, I won't be as rigid," she says. "We have a lot of one-on-one meetings at the Health and Counseling Center, so we'll try to continue our walking meetings.
"At home, we'll bring the kids into our fitness program by doing something outdoors like family bike rides. And of course, I'll continue daily walks with my 11-year-old dog, who has regained some puppy-like energy in the process."
Jacaranda says having the University sponsor the Thrive program was a great way to get employees interacting with each other. "Everyone was talking about it. You'd hear people in the gym on campus talking about their minutes."
As a professional with a clinical psychology doctorate, Jacaranda adds another perspective. "Everyone knows that exercise helps us manage stress, but it tends to be the first thing we cut out when stressed," she says. "Clinically, we work on behavioral activation to treat stress and depression, where the activity comes first and feeling better follows."
She adds that it sends a positive message about DU as an employer.
"It says 'we value you' when your employer encourages activity for employees' health benefits. And I'm glad to see the University focusing on prevention to manage health care costs, rather than cutting benefits."
(Note: Thrive Across America ended at DU Nov. 18, 2012, but the winning teams were recognized at a celebratory luncheon Dec. 7, 2012.)