Healthy Competition Can Lead to Healthy Habits
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Healthy Competition Can Lead to Healthy Habits

By Kathryn Aalto, MSW

Every summer for the past 3 years, our dialysis unit has run a “Wellness Program” for our patients. This program encourages patients to increase their activity level by engaging in wellness activities, defined as exercise, social activities, recreation, hobbies, and activities of daily living.

We placed motivational signs on the bulletin board, on doors, and in other eye-catching places throughout the kidney center to encourage people to participate. We distributed educational materials to all patients on the benefits of exercise and other wellness activities.

To help get patients motivated, we held a contest, dividing participants into two teams. The Red Team was made up of patients who dialyzed on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. The Blue Team was composed of patients who dialyzed on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, and those on home peritoneal dialysis. We also encouraged staff to join in on the fun, both as team participants and to help run the contest.

Participants earned points for various activities. A poster on the bulletin board in the waiting room listed the two teams, including the players’ first names and weekly points earned.

At the end of the 2-month-long contest, we held a picnic, giving out prizes and awards to all participants for their efforts. Prizes were solicited from community businesses and from professional sports teams. One of our most sought-after prizes was an autographed football donated by the Green Bay Packers football team. We also had a T-shirt from the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, and gift certificates from restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, etc. Our staff added to the humor by autographing golf balls to give away as prizes (even though some of them had never picked up a golf club in their lives).


Patient participants said the contest made these wellness activities a fun experience, and it gave them the chance to socialize with other patients. Many patients became motivated to exercise while on dialysis, doing leg lifts and arm exercises.

We consider the program to be successful in improving dialysis patients’ outlook, helping them realize that it is possible to be active and live a full life on dialysis.

Name: Kathryn Aalto, MSW
Title: Clinical Social Worker
Organization: St. Catherine’s Kidney Center
Kenosha, WI
Date: October 1999