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Pentagon Urges Employees to ‘Leap’ Into Fitness

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2010 – 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.”

Related Sites:
The President’s Challenge
DoD’s Civilian Personnel Management Service

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