Student Health Services is putting on a “Spring into Shape” program, to help encourage students to make healthier choices. Courtesy of stock xchange

Students and faculty participating in the Spring into Shape health and wellness challenge are accumulating points and earning prizes as they improve their eating habits, engage in physical activity and practice stress management.

The free challenge offered by Wellness Programs started on Feb. 14, with 160 participants committed to living a healthier lifestyle. Because it is the first time the program has been offered, challenge coordinators were unsure of how many participants to expect.

“We’re very happy with the turnout,” said Rebecca Holgreen, Assistant Coordinator of Wellness Programs.

Each month, the challenge focuses on a different health-related topic. These ongoing monthly challenges allow participants to earn points for completing certain activities Monday through Friday each week.

“The goal of the program is to improve the overall health of students and staff by making positive changes in their daily health habits so they can make positive long-term changes in their lives,” Holgreen said.

February’s challenge focuses on nutrition. Participants earn points by consuming a combination of five fruits and vegetables and 64 ounces of water each day.

In March, the challenge is to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This can include cardiovascular activity, strength training or a combination of both.

Just in time for finals, April will focus on stress management. The goal will be to practice meditation or another relaxation technique for a minimum of five minutes a day.

Because the goals are small and achievable and not overwhelming, Holgreen hopes people will participate consistently throughout the nine week program.

“The challenges are small building blocks that build upon each other,” she said. “This helps people to continue building a habit toward healthy change while adding new ones.”

Besides the health benefits the program provides, grand prizes will also be awarded. Determined by the number of points earned in the ongoing challenges, the top three participants will receive Visa gift cards valuing $100, $75 and $50.

In addition, at the end of each month, there will be a drawing for prizes. Participants receive entries into the drawings by taking part in the services offered in the Wellness Zone and at health fairs and screenings, workshops and yoga classes. Prizes include gift cards to iTunes, Jamba Juice, Outdoor Education and more.

So far, Wellness Programs has received positive feedback from those involved. Participants have said they are excited to take part in the challenge and appreciate that the program is free.