Soldiers, civilians, family members and contractors from Army Materiel Command headquarters and AMC’s major subordinate commands participated in the latest physical activity challenge – virtually walking the Appalachian Trail. (Graphic courtesy of Pixabay)
Soldiers, civilians, family members and contractors from Army Materiel Command headquarters and AMC’s major subordinate commands participated in the latest physical activity challenge – virtually walking the Appalachian Trail. (Graphic courtesy of Pixabay) (Photo Credit: Rachel Deloach) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Army Materiel Command headquarters’ latest physical activity challenge wrapped up with 102 Soldiers, civilians, family members and contractors from the headquarters and AMC’s local major subordinate commands virtually walking the Appalachian Trail.

The challenge produced both physical and mental benefits among participants as they worked toward their goal of walking 2,190 miles.

“The physical benefit was to encourage participants to move more and sit less, regardless of one’s fitness level,” said Valerie Francis, AMC’s Health Promotion Program Manager. “The mental benefit was for employees to reconnect since most participants have been teleworking since mid-March with no or few visits. We are social beings and being isolated can take its toll.”

Aviation and Missile Command employee Bill Loew, who was spending nine hours a day at his home office, said the wellness challenge was an opportunity to get out and get moving.

“COVID-19 may have confined us to our homes but it’s important that we don’t allow it to confine our physical activity,” he said. “Setting daily physical activity goals throughout these past few months has been important to us in moving and staying healthy.”

Loew recruited employees from AMCOM’s Transportation branch to join him. His co-worker Alice Williams accepted the challenge.

“I walked as much as 16 miles in one day,” said Williams. “Every day I walked was a win for me!”

Loew also asked his wife Lisa, who was looking for an opportunity to add more steps into her walking routine, to join him in the challenge. The husband and wife duo encouraged each other to meet their daily step count and hold each other accountable.

The accountability component was a real motivator, said Francis.

“The American Heart Association stresses the importance of seeking a partner or battle buddy that can help motivate and keep you accountable,” she said.

For AMCOM Environmental Engineer Jamie Chilton, her main motivator was a shocking pre-diabetes diagnosis she received at the start of the pandemic.

“My desire to control my sugar levels and stay healthy were factors that motivated me to stay active and nurture lasting habits,” she said. “I also kept in mind that I needed to log steps to contribute to the goal.”

Every Monday since the start of the challenge on Oct. 19, participants were required to log their weekly steps by using the tracking tool on Microsoft Teams.

In addition to accountability, Francis said she shared nutrition and physical activity information to inspire participants to make holistic changes, as well as a weekly motivational quote each week to inspire the team to keep pressing forward.

“Since the team virtually walked the Appalachian Trail, I also provided photos and historical information about the trail,” she said.

According to Francis, the themed challenge motivated them to collectively walk the Appalachian Trail in a record time of one week rather than the publicized five weeks. The group decided to see how many times they could walk the trail round-trip which was almost three times total.

After receiving positive feedback on the challenge which ended Nov. 22, Francis said she plans to offer another one in the summer or fall of 2021.

“In the meantime, my focus is organizing wellness, health promotion and resilience classes,” said Francis. “I encourage all employees to take advantage of our classes, trainings and initiatives.”