Stanford finishes fourth in PAC-12 challenge

Nov. 3, 2011, 2:50 a.m.

Stanford finished fourth this year in the PAC-12 Fitness Challenge, which ended on Sunday. The UCLA Bruins trampled the competition this year with 424,271 total points. The Cardinal came in behind the Washington State Cougars and the USC Trojans with 136,818 points.

The PAC-12 Fitness Challenge aims to encourage physical activity among conference members through a contest in which participants log their exercise minutes over the course of a week, which this year took place from Monday Oct. 24 to Sunday Oct. 30. The challenge is open to all students, faculty and staff at PAC-12 universities and the winning university receives $5,000 for its recreation department. The winner also earns the title of “fittest” school in the PAC-12.

At Stanford, the program is promoted through BeWell, a University-run health organization that aims to “encourage individuals to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors and to improve their health, well-being and quality of life,” according to its website.

“BeWell gets the word out through our mailing lists,” said Eric Stein, senior associate athletic director. “We also had it listed in the Stanford Report, in the ad section there. For students, we had it all over the fitness center.”

Last week, students could log their minutes while still at the gym at computer tables set up at the Arrillaga fitness center. Participants needed a valid university email address in order to register.

Every year, BeWell works to encourage nutrition and fitness on the Stanford campus. The fitness contest is another effort to encourage Stanford students and faculty to be active and healthy.

“The main goal is to activate the population in activities of fitness and wellness,” Stein said.

In an effort to reach more people, the contest made the switch this year to Facebook as the method for users to enter their minutes. In previous years, the contest has operated through its own website. While this move increased the convenience of logging minutes for many students, it also limited contest participation to Facebook users.

The contest counted the number of “likes” on the official Facebook page along with fitness minutes to determine the total number of points for each school. A “like” gained one point and each fitness minute logged earned another point. There was also the opportunity for participants to earn badge points for particular athletic activities like stretching and strength training.

This year the challenge resulted in 1.7 million logged fitness minutes in total and 18,640 likes on Facebook. Stanford contributed 929 likes and 130,060 fitness minutes.

Despite the success, many students remained unaware that the fitness challenge was taking place.

“I really had no idea the PAC 12 Fitness Challenge was happening this year,” said Daniel Wong ’13. “I had heard about it as a freshman, but didn’t hear about it this year.”


Historically, Stanford is a force to be reckoned with in the competition. Since the contest’s beginning in 2007, Stanford has won three of the past four years, just barely coming in second last year to Arizona State University.

The contest has evolved over the years. It initially was judged based off the size of the school, ensuring that the large schools did not have an unfair advantage over the smaller ones like Stanford. However, in 2009, the challenge became non-weighted after Stanford easily swept the competition the first two years.

“The reason it was changed is because Stanford was winning it every year,” Stein said.

This year, the front-runners had significantly larger student populations than Stanford. UCLA boasts a population of 37,000 students compared to Stanford’s combined total of approximately 15,000 graduate students and undergraduates.

Another factor that hindered Stanford’s success this year was decreased participation from faculty as a result of the new format.

“We did hear from some staff that just don’t use Facebook. . . . and were unable to participate this year,” Stein said.

Another big change this year was the addition of the two new PAC-12 schools, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Utah, to the challenge. They finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in point totals.

The PAC-12 athletic directors will be meeting this week at their regional conference. They will discuss the success of the challenge this year and the effects of the new Facebook format on participation.

“Ideally, we’d like to have a dual system next year where you can use our webpage as well as a Facebook page,” Stein said.



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