Challenge takes people to new fitness heights

URBANA, Ill. - URBANA -- It may not be your favorite way to get around, but we all know that taking the stairs is good for you. For the last month, workers at the University of Illinois have been spending extra time on the steps. They had a contest to see who could rack up the most mileage.

The UI Wellness Center has done different events to encourage people to get in better shape, by exercising or eating healthy. By taking the elevator out of the equation, this contest took them to a whole other level.

The steps at the Business Instructional Facility might be some of the nicest-looking ones on campus. Greg Davis would know.

"When I first got here, to be honest, I wasn't in good shape and I had trouble taking the stairs when I came up to the third floor office here," said Davis, who walked 209 floors.

Davis used to live and work in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is pretty obvious when you look in his office.

"You don't want to eat too much, but you should always have Hershey's chocolate around," said Davis.

Davis has plenty of steps around too. And for the last month, he's had even more of an excuse to take them. He was one of 280 people who took the Climb Illinois challenge.

"I don't get the chance to go to the gym very often, so when these opportunities present themselves to just do it here at work, it's kind of a win win for me," said Davis.

"A lot of people seemed to like it and getting the extra physical activity at work," said Josh Pearson, who coordinated the challenge.

They want to encourage people to ditch the elevator and take the stairs instead. People got to hit different benchmarks along the way, like a virtual climb across Springfield, Champaign, Peoria and Chicago. Pearson says some walked more than 600 floors.

"I already have a Fitbit, so I track my steps and my stairs anyway, so I thought, 'why not.' It's easy to do," said Jennifer Frank, who walked 272 floors.

Frank was used to taking the back stairwell to her office in the Illini Union, but she says the challenge took her a few steps farther.

"When you look and you're like, 'wow, I did 39 sets of stairs today. Wow.' That's exciting," said Frank.

Once they got the hang of it, they had a little fun.

"It took me a little while to get to the two-step approach, but I have moved to that," said Davis.

"Stairs are much easier," said Frank. "It's not as tiring anymore."

"The biggest thing for us was that we wanted people to start developing the habit to start taking the stairs," said Pearson.

Now that they've started, the top floor doesn't have to be the limit.

Every time someone hit one of those city benchmarks, they got entered in a prize drawing. The challenge ends on Monday, but the people we talked with say the stair-climbing will go on a lot longer.

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