A wealth of wellness success

Diverse wellness programs promote positive behavior changes

Water Challenge

It’s tough to make drinking water thrilling — it’s a colorless, tasteless liquid that’s generally uninteresting. But for four weeks this summer, more than 1,000 faculty and staff at UF and UF Health eagerly sipped H2O in hopes of placing first in the GatorCare Wellness Water Challenge.


Taking the inaugural GatorCare Wellness Water Challenge first-place certificate was the H.O.M.E (Hydrating Our Minds Every day) Team. With 13 employees from UF Health Shands IT Services, the H.O.M.E. Team drank 3,627 gallons of water during the four-week challenge!

The four-week water challenge launched in July. Participation surged as teams were formed and captains nominated. On behalf of their creatively named teams, contestants tracked their water intake using charts provided by GatorCare, and captains compiled the results. Every week, the team rankings were shared with participants, along with motivational information and fun facts about the benefits of staying hydrated.

“My favorite part of the challenge was communicating with the teams, seeing the camaraderie and hearing the stories from participants about how the challenge changed their hydration habits,” said Caleigh Bean, a GatorCare health educator who managed the challenge.

Participants were enthusiastic, and many observed positive health changes as a result of drinking more water. Some noted that they consumed fewer sweetened beverages like sweet tea and soda, while others lost weight or saw their complexion improve.

Our bodies are made up of 45 percent to 70 percent water, which is why consistent hydration is essential. Regular water intake helps the body regulate its core temperature, convert food into energy and support essential functions.

“I enjoyed the creativity from the teams — from team names to strategies that helped them drink more water,” said Holly Davis, a GatorCare health educator who also helped with the challenge. “Everyone really got into it!”

Stay up-to-date on upcoming challenges and wellness programs by visiting GatorCare.org/Wellness. You can also sign up to receive emails — visit the GatorCare.org home page and enter your information under the “Wellness” logo.

Couch to 5K

The Get up and Go! Couch to 5K initiative, a program of the UF-UF Health Wellness Committee and GatorCare, started at the beginning of 2015 to help employees’ New Year’s resolutions stick. Nearly 100 faculty and staff from 85 UF and UF Health Shands departments participated. Participants received free pedometers and training guides, recommended apps and an invitation to join a Facebook community. About half of the participants had never run a 5K before. Couch to 5K was such a great success that it earned third-place honors from the National Wellness Challenge, sponsored by the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities, and will return later this fall.

Financial Wellness

The UF-UF Health Wellness Committee recently hosted nine financial wellness classes for staff. Topics included managing debt, maximizing Social Security and planning confidently for retirement success. Between 10 and 20 employees attended each class. The most popular topic was Social Security.

“These financial wellness classes were an absolute success,” said Tonya Wilson, the Lincoln Financial Group senior retirement consultant who taught many of the sessions.

Attendees were asked to complete an evaluation at the end of each class. The most frequent response to, “What will you tell someone who asks you about this class?” was — “Attend it.”

Tobacco Cessation

GatorCare, along with the Area Health Education Center, or AHEC, will hold a free six-week tobacco cessation class for all faculty and staff at UF and UF Health and their families. The class addresses the use of all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. AHEC will provide four weeks of free nicotine patches, gum and/or lozenges (while supplies last and if medically appropriate). Interested employees and family members should call 352-733-9202 for more information about class times and locations. Visit bridge.UFHealth.org/tobacco-contraband-free to learn about how you can help us maintain a safe, healthy, clean and welcoming environment for everyone who seeks care or works at UF Health.


It’s no surprise that combining catchy music, a fun workout and friends has resulted in an incredibly popular program for employees. Because of increasing demand, two Zumba classes are now offered to all faculty and staff at UF and UF Health. One is free and takes place Wednesdays from 5:10 p.m. to 5:55 p.m. at the UF Cancer and Genetics Research Complex, Room 451. About 60 employees attend every week to dance alongside their friends and instructor Madel Sotomayor, UF Health Congenital Heart Center administrative director. Another class started this fall and is held Tuesdays from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the UF Norman Hall Terrace, Room G400. The first Tuesday class costs $1 and each additional class costs $5.