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Healthy competition in store for Jackson employees

JACKSON -- A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, and it just might help employees of two Jackson counties -- one in Minnesota and the other in Mississippi -- form healthy habits, improve their work and keep insurance costs down.

Employees in the two counties will compete to see which group can walk the 2,444 miles from one Jackson County to the other Jackson County and back the fastest.

"It gets us moving and keeps them moving, and it's just kind of a fun thing," said Janice Fransen, Jackson County (Minnesota) Coordinator. "It also benefits us by getting us active and promoting fitness, promoting activities."

The competition began April 19. The Mississippi Jackson County has the edge in participation, with about 100 county workers joining the walking race, but the Minnesota Jackson County, with only 60 people, has still pushed ahead.

The Minnesota group has walked 870.84 miles, or about 2.6 million steps, as counted by the American Heart Association's website, which can convert any physical activity, such as dancing, weightlifting, aerobics or jogging, into steps. The 2,444 mile trip equates to 4,888,000 steps.

Minnesota's Jackson County has encouraged employees to participate in fitness challenges every year for several years, usually forming teams internally and competing against each other.

This year, they opted to compete against Jackson County, Miss., instead. The two counties already had a positive working relationship since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the Minnesotan county raised more than $30,000 for their Mississippi counterparts' relief efforts.

"They visited us a couple of years ago and we kept that communication open," Fransen said.

The contest was projected to take six weeks, but it may take less time, given the progress both counties have made toward their goal.

The prize will be the Sole Bowl trophy, which may end up being a gold walking shoe mounted on a piece of wood. Some sort of consolation prize is also in development, Fransen said, and if all goes well, the two counties may compete again next year.

"We're having fun with this," Fransen said. "In government, we have to be very serious, and we all take our jobs very seriously and work hard, but a little light-heartedness is good for the soul."

Total miles for Jackson Co MS as of May 2 is 659.9.