USA — Pentagon Urges Employees to ‘Leap’ Into Fitness

WASHINGTON — The Pen­ta­gon has adopt­ed a new civil­ian employ­ee fit­ness chal­lenge that offi­cials say is not only good for employ­ees and the Defense Depart­ment, but also for the nation.

The Department’s civil­ian per­son­nel pol­i­cy office is spon­sor­ing the “Leap Into Fall” cam­paign, which began Aug. 16 and runs through Oct. 31, Kath­leen Ott, act­ing deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for the office, said dur­ing an inter­view yes­ter­day.

“We con­sid­er this part of readi­ness,” Ott said. “We want our employ­ees to be fit and be pro­duc­tive. If we pay atten­tion to our employ­ees and their needs, it makes us a bet­ter employ­er, bet­ter able to recruit and retain employ­ees, and retain our rep­u­ta­tion as a mod­el employ­er.”

The cam­paign is an exten­sion of an aware­ness cam­paign the office began in Jan­u­ary that posts health infor­ma­tion on its Web­site, The site high­lights one health issue each month – smok­ing ces­sa­tion, nutri­tion, fit­ness, men­tal health, and stress have been cov­ered – with infor­ma­tion that can eas­i­ly be down­loaded, Ott said.

“As part of readi­ness, the depart­ment feels strong­ly that our employ­ees should have at their fin­ger­tips the infor­ma­tion that helps them live a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

But they also want­ed to do more than pro­vide infor­ma­tion. The office start­ed the “Leap Into Fall” chal­lenge as a call to action to get peo­ple mov­ing, Ott said. The chal­lenge sup­ports First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” cam­paign for chil­dren, she said.

“We need­ed to put into prac­tice some of the­o­ries we were espous­ing,” Ott said. The cam­paign, she added, allows employ­ees to serve as role mod­els to get their fam­i­ly and friends mov­ing, too.

The cam­paign goal is for employ­ees to record 1.5 mil­lion hours of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty over the 10-week peri­od, Ott said.

“You may think that’s a lot,” she said, “but if every­one in the depart­ment spends 30 min­utes on phys­i­cal activ­i­ty five times a week, we will eas­i­ly meet that goal.” The depart­ment, she added, has about 750,000 civil­ian employ­ees.

Employ­ees may com­pete as indi­vid­u­als or part of a team. Phys­i­cal activ­i­ty doesn’t have to be stren­u­ous, Ott point­ed out. It could include walk­ing, bik­ing, gar­den­ing, or golf­ing – “any­thing that gets you up and mov­ing,” she said.

Employ­ees can record their activ­i­ty by log­ging into The President’s Chal­lenge Web­site at, and record­ing their hours of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. Indi­vid­u­als with 25 hours logged, or teams in which all mem­bers log 25 hours, will receive a cer­tifi­cate of achieve­ment. The top three indi­vid­u­als and top three teams will be rec­og­nized on the civil­ian per­son­nel man­age­ment office’s Web­site, Ott said. More than 5,000 employ­ees have logged onto the site so far, some from as far away as Afghanistan, she said.

“We’re excit­ed,” she said. “We think this is some­thing our employ­ees are real­ly going to embrace and enjoy.

“It’s going to be fun,” Ott added, “and it’s going to be con­ta­gious, espe­cial­ly if you’re part of a team. One per­son will beget anoth­er per­son who will beget anoth­er per­son.

“Embark­ing on a healthy lifestyle can hap­pen at any stage of a person’s life,” she said. “It’s nev­er too late to start.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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