May 12th 2011
Sometimes a snowball can become an avalanche. Sometimes it is a small, quiet, personal choice that can gain momentum and create change for many. Mary K. Mackey, CPA, at Savran Benson LLP in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania started walking in early December and didn't know she was going to spark a health revolution for her firm.
According to Mackey, it was initially just her. “I started out doing a little over a mile, but now we are up to 2.5 miles around the neighborhood. We purposely include a hill or two to make it harder and more beneficial. It’s a great neighborhood to walk in, the houses are beautiful and there’s a botanical garden nearby that we often pass through.”
This exercise wasn’t done for prizes or fanfare; it was just a simple walk. But like many small starts, it grew. In early February Mackey was joined by co-worker Donna Pironti. Pironti and her husband had decided they needed to improve their health to set a good example for their children. It seemed hard to start something during busy season until she talked to Mackey and found out about her lunch-time walks. Pironti found it to be a great stress reliever and realized that it was easier to exercise with others. It was also a great opportunity to get to know her co-workers better.
Shortly after Pironti joined her, Mackey sent an e-mail message to others at the office to see if anyone else was interested in walking. Margaret (Meg) Myers started walking with them in late February, and Scott Peters began walking in March. Myers joined in hopes of not gaining tax season weight as she had in the past. She likes the way the walks helped her keep focused on her goals and motivated her to adapt a healthier lifestyle. She also noticed that she came back from the walks refreshed and re-energized and more focused on her work.
Peters joined them to get up from sitting at his desk all day. He felt it was important to include some exercise despite the busy work schedule and appreciated how the walk helped him to clear his mind and give him the energy to get through the rest of the work day.
It may appear to be a small group, but with only 10 full-time and 2 part-time staff at the firm, this group represents significant participation. Taking a walk might appear to be easy if you come from a warm climate, however Savran Benson is located in Pennsylvania, a place not known for its moderate winters. Tax season walks require a conscious choice to bundle up, and sometimes the walks include trekking through snow.
The benefits outweigh the cold. According to Mackey, “We have all lost weight and are eating healthier. The walk at lunch-time is so beneficial to our mental and emotional status, especially during tax season. It’s nice to get out of the office, discuss other things, and let out some steam from the stress of the season.” Even though it's busy at the office, or maybe because of it, the walkers have found their bosses very supportive of the walks and the overall benefits from them.
The walks have resulted in added benefits. Mackey has noticed increased energy, a changed appetite, better sleep, and a better ability to handle regular daily stresses.
The rest of the Savran Benson staff members have been supportive and are welcome to join the walkers on a regular or periodic basis. The walkers are considering joining a local gym for the summer months, which would give them a place to shower after walking on the hot summer days.
Mackey started walking for her own reasons, but her actions have picked up steam as well as company. “The firm is changing ~ for example, we always had cake to celebrate staff birthdays, but now sometimes we have fruit or healthy alternatives,” said Mackey. “We have been more conscience of the foods that are stocked in our kitchen. We have talked about doing charity walks as a firm and us walkers plan to move into taking hot yoga classes after work now that tax season has come to an end.”
The walkers hope to speed up to jogging so that they can join boss Mitchell Benson on his jaunts. Benson sometimes goes for a run during tax season weekend afternoons, after many people have already left for the day.
Mackey's walking idea has had them losing weight; now it looks like they will be picking up speed, too.