Program offers fitness and fellowship to MIT community

It brings members of the MIT community together, inspires treks through campus tunnels, sparks friendly competition, and imparts wellbeing as the new year unfolds. Is it some crazy Independent Activities Period scavenger hunt? A CSAIL-inspired robotic assistant?

None of the above. It’s getfit, MIT Medical’s fitness challenge, which has provided students, staff, faculty, postdocs, and other members of the MIT community a healthy, fun start to the new year for 15 years and counting.

During getfit’s registration period, which begins today for 2019, participants form teams of five to eight people each. (The program is open to all MIT community members as well as family members including spouses, partners, and children 16 and older.) During the challenge itself, participants and teams strive to meet steadily increasing weekly exercise goals, logging exercise minutes online.

Bad weather? Not enough time? “Tunnel walks” to the rescue! These brisk, lunchtime walks through MIT’s tunnel system happen several times each week and are led by volunteers.

group of people walking in MIT's underground tunnel system

One such volunteer is the MIT Libraries’ Tina Chan, reference services program manager and social sciences librarian. In addition to logging minutes while biking to work, she leads 10 to 15 tunnel walks during the challenge. “Leading tunnel walks has helped me meet new people from different DLCs that I would not otherwise have met,” she says. “I’ve had tunnel walk participants ask me about my tunnel-walk schedule so they can join me again. They say they like that I walk fast. Don’t worry; I make sure nobody is left behind!”

In addition to tunnel walks and more traditional forms of exercise, past participants have recorded activities such as “angry walking,” “baby chasing,” and “nerf battle!” And getfitters have even found a silver lining to New England’s notorious winter weather: In 2015, when Boston set snowfall records, they logged over a quarter million minutes of snow-shoveling.

Even when nature doesn’t provide motivation, contests and prizes entice participants to get off the couch. By meeting exercise goals, team members can become eligible for weekly prize drawings, as well as several end-of-challenge awards. Every participant can attend getfit’s kick-off, mid-point, and closing events, and sign up for fitness classes and events — and everyone gets a free T-shirt.

Does it work? In 2018, survey respondents reported that they increased their weekly activity level, on average, by 29 percent. “I thought it was a great way to get active, and hopefully, people will carry that even after the challenge is over,” commented one survey respondent.

Each year, between 3,000 and 4,000 people participate in getfit, which is run by Community Wellness at MIT Medical and is open to all members of the MIT community—including Lincoln Laboratory, Draper Laboratory, and the Broad Institute. Registration for the 2019 challenge begins on January 3; the 12-week challenge begins Jan. 28.


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