Alaska's Senate Staff Wins Fitness Challenge

Staffers in Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' office have won first place in a fitness competition on Capitol Hill by walking more than 6,000 miles. Over the past six weeks, staffers of senators and representatives have been wearing pedometers to track their steps in an effort to improve fitness.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

You're listening to Weekend Edition from NPR News. For the past six weeks on Capitol Hill, staffers from the offices of senators and representatives have been conducting a gritty, sweaty battle. But it's not about politics. Many staffers and lawmakers have strapped pedometers to their legs to record the distance they walk each day. It's all been part of a fitness competition that ended Thursday, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska led his office to first place, and the staffers logged more than 13 million steps or 16,590 miles. Senator Stevens joins us from the capital. Thanks so much for being with us.

Senator TED STEVENS (Republican, Alaska): Thank you, Scott. That's a lot of miles, a lot of steps. But we really did them.

SIMON: Are you wearing your pedometer now?

Senator STEVENS: I really am. Yes, sir.

SIMON: And so you wore it all day?

Senator STEVENS: Yes, sir.

SIMON: Did it make you walk more instead of taking that cute little subway in the capital?

Senator STEVENS: Not really. I think that we tried to walk more but it didn't make me walk more. I think that what people forget is that in the summertime, I bring a lot of our people down from Alaska and they work here in the office, and they're interns and they use the Metro and walk. We really did log that many miles.

SIMON: Did you make a particular effort to tell them to get out there and walk more?

Senator STEVENS: Yes, I did. Because we believe in Special Olympics and we wanted to get this emphasis on the contribution we made in the name of the Senate office.

SIMON: We should explain that the winning team makes a contribution to the Special Olympics.

Senator STEVENS: Blue Cross Blue Shield make that contribution to the Special Olympics in our name now because we won this contest.

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, Senator, the political dimension works its way into everything these days. And reports have been brought to us that some staff members - not necessarily in your office, but in somebody's office - were doing things like attaching their pedometers to their dogs.

Senator STEVENS: We don't have any dogs, that's clear. I don't have a dog. I wish I did, but I don't. People forget that, you know, Alaskans are walkers. We enjoy walking, and we had some people question us to whether we really did walk that far and we said, well, come and spend a day with our guys and see for yourself. I told them, if you're going to win this thing, you're going to have to really walk. Don't use the subways and don't use the elevators and we have. It's good exercise for them.

SIMON: Now, I hate to drag politics into this again. But I'm told that nine out of the 10 top overall mile winners were teams from the offices of Republican senators or representatives. Nine out of ten, what do you make of that?

Senator STEVENS: Well, I guess it's a commitment to the outdoors. Most of us are from smaller states, you know, we don't have too many means of public transportation. We walk a lot. Walking is just natural for us.

SIMON: Do you have any bunions?

Senator STEVENS: No. I got some special shoes I bought to make it easier to walk, you know.

SIMON: Oh, it was the shoes. You got some special shoes.

Senator STEVENS: I had them before that. But you got to also remember, I'm the oldest one on my side of the isle and I've got a bunch of young people from my office and I sort of challenge them to walk, and so it goes on pretty well.

SIMON: Senator, thanks so much.

Senator STEVENS: Appreciate it, Simon.

SIMON: Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. And this is NPR News.

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