Heather Biddle, left, University Wellness coordinator for group exercise and safety, and Josilind Martin-White, Office of Patient Experience customer service representative, stretch their muscles to music during a recent
Heather Biddle, left, University Wellness coordinator for group exercise and safety, and Josilind Martin-White, Office of Patient Experience customer service representative, stretch their muscles to music during a recent "Fit Flash."
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Flashing is good for your health – fit flashing, that is!

Published on Thursday, November 1, 2018

By: Ruth Cummins

It was a typical meeting in the B.B. Richardson Conference Room at the University of Mississippi Medical Center hospital administration suite: 15-20 people listening to the person at the head of the table and trying not to pay too much attention to their cell phones.

The atmosphere changed, however, when a woman entered the room waving glittery pompoms and ordered them to get on their feet. Just seconds before she burst into the room, Heather Biddle pushed play on her cell phone to blare the song “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite, then stuffed her phone in the pocket of her shorts.

“Give me some flavor!” she yelled, inviting the room full of nurses to join her in a five-minute “fit flash” of low-impact exercises. They started small, stepping left to right to the beat, then adding arm stretches and hip action.

“All right! Everyone’s going to squat! Are you holding your abs in tight?” Biddle asked.

Biddle bursts into a meeting in the B.B. Richardson Conference Room to lead employees in a "Fit Flash."

He might not have been working his abs, but Deanti Nichols, a DIS network engineer at the Jackson Medical Mall who joined the meeting via a huge 80-inch screen on the conference room wall, grabbed a 35-pound dumbbell at his desk and pumped it up and down. Watching him only added to the fun.

Biddle, coordinator for group exercise and safety for University Wellness, surprised the meeting led by co-conspirator and Director of Patient and Family Advocacy Patrice Donald. That tactic is key to the success of a fit flash, a new program of the Office of Wellbeing.

“It’s to change the mood of a meeting and get people up and moving, their blood pumping and their brain going,” said Brea Cole, manager of the Medically Integrated Wellness Program in the Office of Wellbeing.

“A lot of times, people will go into meetings, and they’re just the same old meetings. There’s nothing exciting,” Cole said. “But just four or five minutes of physical activity will change your mood and train of thought. A fit flash shows people that it doesn’t take much time just to get up and get your body going and your mind thinking better.”

Fit flashing is a natural extension of UMMC Everyday Wellness, a program to promote awareness and education, provide motivation for positive behavior changes, and influence campus practices and policy to support a healthy environment.

“Brea and I sat down one day to brainstorm about things we could do that would limit the disruption on a floor or unit, but still let employees have a three- to five-minute breather to clear their heads,” Biddle said. Together with Sondra Redmont, the Office of Wellbeing’s administrator, they came up with fit flashing.

Shomonique Whitfield, left, and Tara Madison follow Biddle's dance lead.

When Biddle begins a fit flash, there’s no way to miss her grand entrance. “I ambush them,” she said.

“If the group is 15 or less, I bring resistance bands with me, and everybody gets one. They’re easy to use, and easy for me to transport,” Biddle said.

No one gets a pass.

“I incorporate squats, or maybe lunges. You can do them whether you have heels on or scrubs on,” Biddle said. “You can do this in an executive office. We have done that before, and they seemed to like it. They didn’t kick me out!”

Nichols said the fit flash came out of nowhere. “I thought, ‘Is this scripted? Did I miss something?’ I didn’t have a meeting itinerary. She came in with the pompoms, and I could see it and hear it,” Nichols said.

He keeps 10-, 15- and 35-pound dumbbells at his desk for impromptu exercising. When he saw everyone in the room dancing, Nichols said, “I used the 15 and the 35.”

“I was really surprised,” said Shomonique Whitfield, an RN patient placement coordinator who attended Donald’s meeting on “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation,” an initiative that focuses on nurses helping UMMC’s 10,000 employees to become healthier.

“When I looked around, I felt like everyone was into it,” Whitfield said. “It was really fun. You could definitely tell it was exercise, and dancing is a little bit of both. It had me hot. I had to come out of my jacket.”

The fit flash debuted at a meeting led by Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine. “He was our guinea pig,” Biddle said. On Oct. 17, she took it much bigger.

When Biddle fit-flashed the Medical Center’s leadership meeting, Guy Giesecke was among dozens who got a quick mini-workout.

Biddle “started dancing, and she got us all on our feet and doing different exercises to get involved,” said Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “Everybody joined in. It was fun and promoted exercise, which is important to us all, and it made people realize that work can be fun, too.”

“It totally caught people by surprise. It changed the mood,” Cole said of the leadership meeting.

Managers and supervisors who would like their meeting fit-flashed can email Cole at  to lay their plans.

“Most people sit at a desk all day,” Cole said. “This can make people happy and create a happy space.”