UM staff and students compete for highest number of steps

UM steps challenge: Get active in spring!


With the motto ‘Get active in spring!’ 750 employees and 350 students from Maastricht University have started walking. Between 12 April and 5 May, they are going to try and make 178.500 steps, or about 8,500 steps per day. The faculty or service centre that manages to do this first, wins the UM steps challenge. An Observant journalist decided to tag along for a day.

First, I create an account on Selfcare, the platform that the UM is using for this challenge. You link your own pedometer (on your telephone, smartwatch or Fitbit) to the platform and your steps will be registered. You can also choose a digital coach. I go for Karin, whose profile says that she is ‘accompanying’ and ‘inquisitive’ and who will send me regular, encouraging e-mails.

A long time ago, I had a pedometer. I remember that on an average day at the office I would accumulate about 3,000 steps. So, to reach 8,500, I will have to do something extra.

Morning walk

It is Thursday 12 April and the steps challenge is now about to begin. I get up a little earlier than I normally would and go for a walk around the block. The sheep greet me bleating loudly as I open the gate to the Hoge Fronten. Otherwise, it is quiet – except for the chirping of birds, and the calls coming from the owner of a dog called Roxy, who clearly has no intention to listen. When I sit at my desk at around 9.00 o’clock, I have already clocked up 4,497 steps.

I am glad about that later on. I’m not making much progress indoors. Three trips downstairs for cups of tea and to collect a parcel? 147 steps. During my lunch break, I walk to the supermarket. Which I regret on the way back, because it starts to rain, but it did make me feel like I was getting somewhere; the counter now stands at 6,999.

Pacing up and down

In a video clip on the UM website, Stef Kremers, professor of Health Promotion, gives tips on how you can incorporate more exercise into your day. ‘Turn your meetings into a walking meetings’ is one of them. So, when I receive a phone call that afternoon, I pace up and down the room.

The result is disappointing: 47 steps extra. I become suspicious and test it out by counting out loud. And indeed: every time I turn a corner, the pedometer doesn’t count that step. Now, as my home office is 8 m2, I have to turn a corner quite often, so there is only one thing I can do. “We need a bigger house,” I tell my boyfriend during dinner.

The day is almost done, but I still have 1,500 steps to go. I grab a bag with paper and plastic waste and walk to the civic amenity site. Back home, I check my telephone: 8,433 steps. Damn it. To my boyfriend’s and the cat’s amusement, I do 67 steps on the spot. Feeling satisfied I flop onto the sofa.


Like so many people, I have been exercising a lot less since COVID-19. On a normal Thursday, I would have cycled to work, to the faculty council meeting in Randwyck and in the evening I would have played badminton for an hour and a half. Now, days pass where I only move from my bed to my chair to the sofa. So, it doesn’t just happen by itself, I was a little disappointed to notice how much effort it took to make 8,500 steps. I can certainly use the extra push that this challenge gives.

The UM steps challenge

Anyone participating in the UM steps challenge, will automatically be placed in a team – the faculty or the service centre where you work or study. The aim is to make on average 178,500 steps per person in three weeks – so a fanatic walker can compensate for a colleague who just goes around the block.

The three units to reach the objective the quickest, will receive respectively 3000, 2000 and 1000 euros from the Executive Board that they can use to improve vitality at work. For instance: a monthly common fruit basket or a fitness rack on the terrain. After the first weekend, Facility Services has taken the lead with almost 70 thousand steps, followed by ICTs and the University Library.

Because people also want to compete against each other within a faculty/service centre, there will be a second steps challenge at the end of May. Then, departments compete with each other.

Author: Cleo Freriks


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