Living Well

Get fit: Challenge asks all in WNC to ramp up activity

Get fit: Challenge asks all in WNC to ramp up activity

This year’s eight-week WNC Get Fit Challenge is set to return Monday, Sept. 10, challenging not just Jackson County residents but people across the region to get moving. 

“It’s really just encouraging participants to be more active,” said Janelle Messer, health education supervisor for the Jackson County Department of Public Health. “It has a little bit of competitive feel to it. You can compete for weekly prizes. It’s not just who has the most steps or minutes but who’s the most diligent at putting theirs in, who’s the most improved and that kind of thing over the course of the eight weeks.”

For the first time, this year’s challenge will be individual rather than team-based and broken into two separate competitions. For the minutes challenge, participants will enter the number of minutes of moderate or strenuous physical activity they’ve completed for each day, earning one point for each minute. For the steps challenge, participants with fitness trackers will earn one point for every 1,000 steps. For each challenge, the person with the most points at the end of the eight-week challenge — which ends Nov. 5 — will named the winner. 

“Our biggest goal is to reach people who are less physically active and encourage them to get out there with other folks and find physical activity they find enjoyable,” Messer explained. “Last year we surveyed participants at the end of the challenge through Survey Monkey, and 75 percent of those who took the survey said they were more active as a result of participating in the challenge.”

Eight weeks is plenty long enough to build a habit, and the hope is that by the end of the challenge — which occurs less than three weeks before Thanksgiving — participants will have developed some new routines that will provide armor against holiday overeating. 

“Starting this challenge right before the holiday season really gears up to allow people to start a healthy habit going into the holiday season where we may be more sedentary and engaging in more unhealthy eating habits,” Messer said. 

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The event Sept. 10 will kick off this year’s challenge, with community members meeting at 5:30 p.m. for a walk on the Jackson County Greenway in Cullowhee, about 2 miles to walk the entire length and back again. The challenge will include two more group activities as well. At 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, an activity yet to be determined — likely yoga — will take place, and the End of Challenge Celebration will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, at the Cullowhee Recreation Center, including a walk, games and food. 

While the challenge is run through the Jackson County government with organizational support from the Healthy Carolinians of Jackson County, for the last few years it’s been open to anybody, regardless of which county they reside in. Attendance at the group events is not mandatory, and online sign-up is available. 

“It started out as a Jackson County initiative and we had people from Swain County and Waynesville and even Macon County who wanted to be involved,” Messer said. “The goal is to get people physically active no matter where you live, so the people who were in charge of it thought it made sense to open it up if other people wanted to participate.”



Take the Get Fit Challenge

Registering for the WNC Get Fit Challenge takes just minutes online and will offer eight weeks of encouragement toward a healthier, more physically active lifestyle ahead of the holiday season. 

The challenge includes two different contests — the steps challenge and the minutes challenge. For those with a fitness tracker, the steps challenge calculates points based on number of steps taken, and data can be automatically uploaded using the website Challenge Tracker. The minutes challenge asks participants to manually enter the number of minutes of exercise they complete each day. Prizes are available for winners in both categories and throughout the life of the challenge. 

Free, and open to all regardless of residency. Register or find out more at

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