Forty-six teams participate in Duplays corporate walking challenge

For the next month 46 teams, each made up of five participants, in the GetFitArabia Corporate Step Challenge will aim to walk a collective 60,000 steps per day.

In last year’s challenge, Hiren Kansara of Al Fara’a walked up to 10 hours a day. Satish Kumar / The National
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It’s not often that company bosses encourage their employees to get up from their desks and go for a long walk. But that’s exactly what the heads of companies who’ve signed up for the GetFitArabia Corporate Step Challenge are doing.

The 230 people participating in the month-long walking challenge have been given fitness-tracker wristbands that monitor how many steps they take each day. The 46 teams, each made up of five people, are attempting to take at least 60,000 steps a day. That’s 12,000 steps per person, which is just more than nine kilometres, roughly equivalent to the length of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche.

The challenge has been organised by Duplays adult sport and social club, which was founded by the Canadian Ravi Bhusari.

“An active adult should try to achieve between 10,000 and 12,000 steps, so that’s why we chose 12,000 steps as our goal,” he says. “It’s a team effort, so if you have to fly for your job and aren’t able to do as many steps, you can coordinate with your teammates and say: ‘Hey guys, can someone help me out?’ We’re trying to reward coordination and teamwork.”

The first time Duplays organised the challenge was six months ago, but Bhusari has had to adapt the rules this time around. “We found last time that a lot of people tended to cheat. So now, it’s not about getting the most number of steps, but about consistently breaking through that 60,000-step threshold.”

Each team that hits the 60,000 mark collectively enters a virtual draw that day for a chance to win Dh10,000 of shopping vouchers. There is also an individual lottery for those who hit 12,000 steps and another for the top 10 teams with the most number of average daily steps.

Check the leaderboard here to see how the teams are doing.

One of the companies that has stepped up to the challenge is The National, whose team of five walkers includes managing editor Laura Koot.

"The National wants to walk the walk when it comes to the discussion about healthy living," she says. "We write about the benefits of walking in #healthyliving magazine and we hosted a walking challenge last month, but we also practice what we preach, so a competition like this on a corporate level is a natural fit."

The challenge comes at a good time for Koot personally, too.

“I find this is the time of year, as the mercury rises, that I begin to feel sluggish. This challenge will keep me on my toes and not let me take any shortcuts.”

Since the challenge began on Monday, The National's team has been walking hard, climbing from 21st position after the first day to an impressive third place yesterday. But two teams from Al Fara'a General Contracting are leaps and bounds ahead. The Al Fara'a Step Pounders have so far smashed the 60,000 steps target every day, as have their colleagues the Al Fara'a Steppers, who are in second place.

Al Fara’a employees are hoping for the victory that evaded them in last year’s challenge, when the team they entered came second overall. Their assistant vice president of accounts, Hiren Kansara, managed to walk an incredible 60,000 footsteps a day. Bhusari admits to having been baffled at the achievement.

“We couldn’t understand how he did it,” says Bhusari. “He showed me a picture of a blister he’d taken on his iPhone. I told him we probably wouldn’t be pushing that on our Facebook. He was to the extreme. But you always have people who take it very seriously.”

Kansara explained his game plan: “I walked from 5am to 8am, went to work, walked through my lunch break between 11am and 1pm, finished work by 5pm and walked until 8pm, then again from 11pm to 1am.”

On the final day of the competition, Kansara took a day off so he could walk 75km.

“But I’m only walking six to eight hours a day this time around,” he says. “I don’t want any more blisters.”

Participants get to keep their Jawbone Up & Move tracker bands, which are provided by project partners Alpha, even after the competition ends. One of last year’s walkers, the British expatriate Asif Memom, was so inspired to stay fit that he has been wearing his band every day since and is taking part in the challenge again with his company Unilever.

“It was a push for me to go out for a walk every night, and my wife benefited, too, as she tagged along with me. I think it’s a great thing for companies to do. It improves your overall fitness and helps with team building because you’re all working together to get the maximum steps.”

• Check out Arts&Life every Wednesday for the latest list of the top 10 teams in the GetFitArabia Corporate Step Challenge

artslife@thenational.ae