Can a fitness tracker change your life? Employees here at Adventist HealthCare are finding that these popular devices, like Fitbit and Jawbone, can inspire small changes that have a big impact over time.

Recently, our wellness division, LifeWork Strategies, challenged employees to an “Appalachian Trail Challenge,” taking inspiration from the 2,168-mile hike that runs from Maine to Georgia. Employees formed teams to meet the challenge’s goal of logging 56,000 steps – or an average of 8,000 steps a day — over six weeks on their fitness trackers.

The idea was that in groups of 8 to 10, employee teams could cover a distance equivalent to the Appalachian Trail over the duration of the challenge, said Michaela Graminski, the wellness coordinator for LifeWork Strategies who coordinated the effort. Teams formed at Adventist HealthCare’s various entities, with employees competing for bragging rights as well as weekly gifts and a grand prize.

At first, logging steps was pure sport. Coworkers whipped each other into action and found simple ways to add steps. We jogged in front of the copy machine, parked our cars farther from the front doors, and walked stairs during breaks. Each day, we logged onto our corporate wellness portal to check the standings and stay motivated.

Walking MeetingAs the weeks rolled on, those small steps turned into giant leaps, both in fitness and in our relationships. Motivated to boost our step standings however we could, we added walks after dinner with our families. We scheduled “walking meetings” instead of sitting in the office. We connected through apps and via text message to cheer each other in 5K races, and laughed as we ran laps around our houses to meet daily goals.

When the challenge ended, we more than conquered the virtual Appalachian Trail. Employees logged a total of 51,722,427 steps – about 24,487 miles, or a little more than one lap around the world. Even better, many of us lost weight. We also developed all kinds of wacky habits for working fitness into our daily routines, and we formed new bonds with co-workers and our families.

Perhaps most importantly, we learned that the path to staying in shape doesn’t have to be a giant trek. In fact, when you start tracking life’s little walks, you realize they add up to much more than you expect.