Healthy Lifestyle Challenge

Program Overview

The Office of Work/Life's "Healthy Lifestyle Challenge"  

The Healthy Lifestyle Challenge (HLC) is a worksite wellness program developed by the Office of Work/Life that encourages Columbia employees to make positive changes which can lead to a healthier lifestyle. As an additional benefit, the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge serves to create increased levels of inter- and intra-departmental social exchange and contributes to a positive work culture. 

Why Do It?
  • Chronic conditions are among the leading causes of death in the United States although largely preventable with behavior adjustments
  • Administrative positions often encourage sedentary lifestyles and an office culture not conducive to healthy activity
  • Many individuals make New Year’s resolutions to change unhealthy behavior and lifestyle

Program Aims:
  • Increase employee satisfaction, energy, and overall health
  • Increase level of interdepartmental social exchange and positive work culture

When Is It?
Weekly challenges are developed for a five week period of time. Including registration and awards, the program lasts seven weeks total.

How It Works:
Each week, employees will be challenged to adopt of maintain a healthy lifestyle behavior.  
Week 1 - EAT 5: Eat five cups of fruits and vegetables each day
Week 2 - MOVE 30: Exercise for 30 minutes a day
Week 3 - TAKE 10: Take the time to relax at least 10 minutes each day
Week 4 - SLEEP 7: Sleep seven hours a night
Week 5 - 4 ME: Take care of yourself with daily health habits

How to Sign up

Designate someone to coordinate a Healthy Lifestyle Challenge in your department.  Have the coordinator contact the Office of Work/Life to register the department, set-up the participant registration survey, receive tracking logs, and discuss logistics.

Important note:  If you have a medical condition that could be affected by physical activity, you are encouraged to consult your medical provider prior to starting any exercise routine. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Healthy Lifestyle Challenge FAQ’s

Team Captain Role
  • What are the team captains’ responsibilities?  They need to collect and report weekly scores, encourage participation and hand out prizes if your team or team members win.
  • How many people can be on a team?  You need a minimum of 5 people to form a team. There is a maximum of 10 on a team.
  • How do we pick a team name? Have fun brainstorming a name with your team members to choose a fun, creative team name. It will boost excitement and encourage bonding among team members.
  • The other team in my building has more people on it?  Not to worry, we will average the scores based on the number of people on your team.
  • What if a team member quits?   If they quit within the first week, before team points have been reported, you can take them off your team roster.  After that, they will still count as a team member when you average total points.  Use the support of the team to encourage them to continue.
  • What if I don’t want people to know my score?  If you are on a team, only your team captain will need to know your total points for the week.  If you are still shy, you may want to volunteer to be the team captain. The Office of Work Life staff will also look at your score to determine whether or not you are eligible for the weekly drawing.  
  • When are scores due? A tally week runs from Monday to the following Sunday.  Weekly activity point tallies (including accrued bonus points) are due to your team captain by the next Monday at 9 AM.  
  • What if I am traveling or on vacation?  Continue the good health behaviors as they can be done anywhere.  Report your points to your team captain as soon as possible but no later than the Monday of the following week.
  • Who checks my accuracy?  No one, we trust you to accurately report your healthy activity.  
  • Where do I direct my questions?  Check first with your team leader. If s/he cannot answer, feel free to e-mail us at or call 212-854-8019 to speak with either Deborah Ndao or Rebecca Balkin.
Eat 5
  • What constitutes eating 5?  In general, 1 cup of fruit or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group and 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the Vegetable group. Aim for 2 pieces of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables, or simply make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Do I need to eat 5 fruits and 5 vegetables each day?  No, it is combination of the two that add up to 5.  
  • What if I eat 4 cups of vegetables, do I get credit?  No, you must eat 5 cups of fruits and/or vegetables to record a “1” in the grid.  If you eat more than 5, good for you…but you still only record a “1” in the grid.
  • Can I record a ½ point for partially completing a task?  No, you must complete the entire task (eating at least 5 cups of fruit and/or vegetables) to count one point.
  • Does Tofu count as a vegetable?  No.
  • Do French fries count as a vegetable? No.
Move 30
  • What is considered exercise? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim to exercise at a moderate-intensity level for at least 150 minutes per week (with a goal of achieving 50-70% maximum heart rate), or aim to increase heart rate with vigorous-intensity exercise for 75 minutes per week (with a goal of 70-85% maximum heart rate). To find out how to calculate your heart rate, check out the CDC’s guide.  
  • Do I need to change clothes and sweat for 30 minutes? No, most movement counts including vacuuming, walking to the train or post office, yard work, snow shoveling, etc.
  • Does the 30 minutes need to be continuous?  No, exercise can be accumulated throughout the day in bouts of 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
  • What if I exercise for 20 minutes, do I get credit?  No, you must move for 30 minutes to record a “1” in the grid.  If you exercise more, great…but you still only record a “1” in the grid.
  • Can I record a ½ point if I exercise for 15 minutes?  No, you must move for 30 minutes or more to count the one point.
  • If I exercise 30 minutes in week 1, can I count that time in my grid for week 2?  No, you must accumulate the activity points during the appropriate week, you cannot pre-load points.
  • If I exercise for 60 minutes in a day, can I count those minutes over 2 days? No, new exercise guidelines recommend movement on most days of the week.  Our goal of this contest is to help you establish a daily routine of health.
Take 10
  • What counts for relaxation?  Count anything that helps you to relax…. deep breathing, meditating, mindfulness, journaling, reading, listening to soothing music, or sipping your favorite tea.  Also try self-massage, stretching, yoga, aromatherapy, or turning off all electronics.
  • Does zoning out while watching TV count as relaxation? No.
Sleep 7
  • Do the 7 hours of sleep have to be continuous?   Yes and No.  The goal of this task is to encourage people to plan for a good night of sleep, so the 7 hours have to be in a bed at night.  If you get up for the restroom in the middle of the night or for your young child, fine…just go back to sleep.
  • Do afternoon naps count?  While naps have been shown to be beneficial for some people, for this contest, we are not counting them… our goal is to encourage you to plan for a good night of sleep.
  • What if I fall asleep in the recliner watching TV, does that time count?  No, we want you to plan to go to bed for a good night’s sleep.
  • Why 7 hours?  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Sleep Foundation recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults.
  • How do I record Sunday night’s sleep? Sunday night’s sleep counts towards that week’s points. For example, if you sleep 7 hours on Sunday night count that point towards the week starting on Monday.  
4 Me
  • Do I have to do everything on the list?  No, pick an activity that you know will benefit you the most.  If you do something healthy for you occasionally, try to commit to doing it daily. For example…if you rarely floss your teeth, try to floss everyday during the contest.

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