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Climb Mt. Everest: Lead a Fun Fitness Challenge at Your Workplace

Posted By Patricia Quinlisk and Shawnice Cameron, Friday, July 31, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 23, 2015

New research has shown that sitting for more than three hours at a time is very bad for overall health; in fact, it may be as bad for your health as smoking! 1 2 To “walk the talk” of personal wellness, a volunteer planning team at the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) created a fun, friendly competition to engage employees, students, and staff. The challenge not only helped our workplace achieve its fitness goals—such as increased use of stairs, decreased time ‘just sitting,’ and improved health—but also contributed to camaraderie and morale. We did this without public funding at a minimal cost. We’ve compiled the materials into an easy-to-use, downloadable package of public domain instructions and materials, so that you can replicate or adapt the challenge at your work environment. Leading your own challenge helps your colleagues build daily routines for better long-term health.

The Climbing Mt. Everest Fun Fitness Challenge can turn any available location with steps, such as stairwells, outdoor bleachers at schools, parking ramp stairs, etc., into an opportunity for group fitness. IDPH’s first 26-week challenge concluded this month, proving to be so engaging and popular among participants that we plan to continue it.

How it works is simple and easy:

  1. Lead a pep rally, hang up announcement posters, and send an introductory e-mail
  2. Hang up the wall chart (see below) in a prominent location, such as the top of a stairwell. Table rows list participant names and columns list progressive elevations of famous mountains. The wall chart allows participants to track the flights of stairs they’ve ascended with tally marks. Counting the steps in your stairwell allows you to calculate how many tally marks are necessary to reach each mountaintop, using instructions in the downloadable packet.
  3. Ask participants to print, personalize, and hang near their desk their own achievement charts (see below):
  4. Incentivize continued participation by refreshing the daily stairway climb experience. Every day, IDPH staff posted a rotating series of trivia questions and answers, pulled from a popular board game, respectively at the bottom and top of the stairs.
  5. Recognize those who reach the summit of Mt. Everest by awarding the distinction of ‘Sherpa,’ which imparts these individuals with the role of motivator to guide all colleagues towards scaling that final summit.

Download the complete packet of materials or just the instructions

Included in this packet are instructions on how to start the challenge, how to create units of measurement to climb to the top of Mt. Everest, and suggestions on how to make the use of stairs more interesting and fun. Also included are templates for the materials needed for this challenge: the wall chart, the cubicle/desk/office posters, the stickers of milestone mountains for tracking personal progress, information on mountains used for elevation milestones, and minimal costs of this challenge.

This material was developed by Iowa Department of Public Health for our employee wellness with no public funding and is in the public domain. Please feel free to customize it for your own group needs. For more information, please contact Shawnice Cameron. We want to hear if your workplace finds this packet useful.



  1. "Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy.” Seidman, Andrew. Wall Street Journal (July 2012).
  2. "Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers.” Schmid, Daniela and Colditz, Graham. Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2014). 106 (7).


Patricia Quinlisk, MD, MPH is medical director and state epidemiologist and Shawnice Cameron is administrative assistant at the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology at the Iowa Department of Public Health. For more information about long-term health, visit the chronic disease-related subcommittees on the CSTE page for the Chronic/Maternal and Child Health/Oral Health Steering Committee.

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