Campus Rec broadens Healthy U Wellness Challenge

The Healthy U Wellness Challenge kicks off its first event on Jan. 13, one of many in a multifaceted 8 1/2-week promotion put on by Portland State’s Academic and Student Rec Center. The challenge is geared toward helping PSU community members lead healthier lives.

“The timing is good because it’s around New Year’s and people do have a lot of intentions of making changes,” said Erin Bransford, fitness and health promotions coordinator at the PSU Rec Center. “It is only one term, but typical New Year’s resolutions will go through January, maybe February if you’re really lucky. Extending that into March is not very common.”

Registrants will track their healthy habits and exercise and log them every week for points. Staff at the Rec Center will track which participants go to which events, creating another opportunity to earn points.

Prizes and rewards will be unveiled at the opening ceremonies. In keeping with past years, the grand prize for this wellness challenge will be REI gift cards.

The response to this year’s challenge so far has been great, with over 100 people registering during the early registration period. “We’ve got half of what our normal registration would be already filled,” said Clara Johnson, marketing and outreach coordinator for the Rec Center.

While the challenge does incorporate healthy diet choices into its system, it takes a broader approach to good health. This year’s healthy habits fall into one of six categories: activities and routines; nutrition; sustainability; emotional, social and spiritual wellness; financial wellness; and intellectual and cultural wellness.

This is the Rec Center’s fourth time putting on this event.

“Every single year it becomes even more all-encompassing as we dial in all the basics,” Bransford said.

“We wanted people to think this was something they could do really easily,” Johnson said.

This challenge is not just for the regulars at the Rec Center either. It’s for anyone who wants to make a change for the better in the new year, and it’s especially for those who want to do it with three to nine others.

“Being on a team will make you more successful,” Bransford said. “You hold each other accountable. You’re motivated by each other. Teams [are] the fun way to do it.”

One of the first events in the challenge is called Staying on Top with Mind Body Medicine, which will be held on Jan. 16 from noon until 1 p.m. in the Distance Learning Center, room 304.

“Our hope is that it’s going to help people be more successful throughout the rest of the challenge,” said Bransford, adding that it’s about behavior change—specifically how to create and maintain it.

One event series, called Lunch & Learn, focuses on healthy eating. You are How You Eat, the first Lunch & Learn event, is put on by the dietitians at the Center for Student Health and Counseling and will be held on Feb. 5 from 12:45-1:45 p.m. in the DLC, room 304.

“This year they really wanted to talk about intuitive eating and mindful eating as opposed to calorie-counting or eliminating certain foods from your diet,” said Bransford. The Rec Center hopes that the result will be an event that focuses on self-compassion and exploration of eating practices without marketing a specific diet to people.

The second food-centric Lunch & Learn introduces the idea of food stories and will be on Feb. 19 from 12:45-1:45 p.m. in the DLC, room 304. This event inquires into the way we choose our food in order to implement lasting change. The philosophy is that once you identify what your food story is, you will know what your habits are and why you have them.

Another change this year pertains to the challenge’s website.

The Healthy U Wellness Challenge website,, has been improved based on requests and constructive criticism from past participants. Campus Rec IT was able to build the site from the ground up based on the vision that Bransford had, which was one that emphasized accessibility from any device.

“In general, 60 to 63 percent of people access these sites through their mobile devices, so the details were really important,” said Alex Laughnan, IT support analyst for Campus Rec. “This year we went mobile.”

The web experience has also given more control to the user. Users will be able to create teams, join teams, see who’s slacking off or not aiding in the effort—things that before were largely left to interns.

The Healthy U Wellness Challenge is about people coming together, organizing, practicing gratitude and striving to better themselves. “You get out of it what you put in,” said Bransford.

For more information on the Healthy U Wellness Challenge, visit For a full list of events, check out the Healthy U Wellness Challenge calendar at