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Firefighters Walk Over 60,000 Miles in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts' Fitness Challenge

Firefighters from Seven Cities/Towns Climb the Ladder to Health and Wellness Success

Boston, MA (Vocus) April 16, 2010 -- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) today announced the winners of its’ Firefighter Fitness Challenge, a 12-week challenge pitting over 160 firefighters in seven cities/towns (Arlington, Framingham, Hingham, Hudson, Ludlow, Peabody and Rockland) in a friendly competition to improve their health and wellness. Hudson, the winning station, received a $2,000 wellness grant today at Florian Hall in Dorchester. Several other prizes of a $50 value were given to the Top Performers and Most Improved from each station.

“We saw this Challenge as an opportunity to improve the health and fitness of firefighters throughout Massachusetts,” said Steve Shay, Director of Select Markets Labor Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “The results and feedback are inspiring. “Participants experienced weight loss, joined gyms, began eating healthier with their families. One individual even made a seven-hour trek from Hudson to Arlington on foot, and another signed up for the Boston Marathon. We’ve seen a real dedication to leading healthier lives from these firefighters, which will ultimately help to bring down their health care costs.”

Success of the participants was measured by FitAware ActionTrackers provided by AWare Technologies, devices that record the number of “steps” each person took during the challenge, whether walking, running, or climbing a ladder.

Hudson came in first place with 14,126 average steps, followed by Arlington (12,877), Ludlow (11,594), Rockland (11,120), Framingham (10,636), Hingham (10,332), and Peabody (8,226).

Top Performers by station include: Rob O'Hare, Hudson (1st overall); Craig Brown, Arlington (2nd overall); James Bailey, Arlington (3rd overall); Scott Kozak, Ludlow; Mark DiTocco, Rockland; John Schultz, Framingham; Marc McManus, Hingham; and Adam Skelton, Peabody.

In looking at health care trends of labor unions, including firefighters, BCBSMA determined that many individuals were not visiting their Primary Care Physicians regularly, and could use help improving their fitness and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Beginning last fall, participating firefighters began taking part in nutrition and educational seminars to prepare them for the 12-week fitness challenge that kicked off in January. They underwent pre-challenge biometric screenings to evaluate overall health and fitness, and benefited from on-site physical training sessions and healthy cooking demonstrations during the challenge to help them with their progress.

The challenge also had a social networking component that kept participants engaged. Firefighters could monitor progress tracked by their ActionTrackers on the FitAware website and communicate online with each other throughout the 12 weeks. The top performers from each station achieved an average number of steps ranging from 12,924 to 46,189, and those showing the most improvement saw results ranging from a 57 to 1,342 percent improvement from the start to the finish of the challenge.

Rob O’Hare, Hudson firefighter and top performer across all stations notes, “It was not easy to get the steps that I did, but the ActionTracker gave me the motivation and the accountability that I needed to stick with it. This challenge has helped me reflect on areas of my life I've been ignoring.” Rob was the firefighter that made the seven-hour trek from Hudson to Arlington on foot.

“The commitment firefighters in this challenge made to improve their health and fitness is commendable,” said Bryce Williams, Senior Director of Health and Wellness at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “Several participants experienced a weight loss of 10 pounds or more which can make a noticeable difference in helping to lower their blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and improve overall health. We look forward to their continued success.”

"It was up to us to get the most out of this program so we could improve our health and fitness,” said Bryan Johannes, past-president of the Hudson Firefighters Union. “Working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and FitAware, our station achieved over 24 million steps(1) and I lost 27 pounds. We feel better, look better and look forward to continuing to lead healthy lifestyles.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( was founded 73 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to nearly 3 million members, 2.5 million in Massachusetts. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

(1) Reflects the total number of steps for all Hudson participants, not the average.

Jenna McPhee
(617) 246-4712

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