Work Wellness Challenge

By Katie, 2:20 pm

Dave was a bit rushed getting to work this morning, and on the way out the door he grabbed a random can of pasta-based soup for lunch. As he kissed me goodbye he said, “Next week I’m going to have to try harder to eat some vegetables with my lunch.”

Why next week? Because next week he begins a 4 week Wellness Challenge at his workplace. Fun, right?

I admit when he first told me he was participating in the program I was a bit wary. Not because I’m against a little competition or get-healthy incentives, but because sometimes such programs just turn into weight loss contests, which aren’t always physically or mentally healthy.

So last night I examined the booklet where Dave will be recording his points, and I have to say, I am extremely impressed with his work’s Wellness Challenge. I really think they hit the nail on the head, and here’s why.

1. Framing Activities in the Positive

I was worried that the point system for the challenge would be all about “don’t do this” or “don’t eat that.” Being encouraged not to let a single gram of sugar pass your lips is not my idea of a fun health challenge (and it certainly doesn’t support long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes). But Dave will be receiving points almost entirely for what he does do, rather than what he doesn’t, such as trying a new kind of exercise, eating enough fruits and veggies, and trying a new healthy recipe (PIECE OF CAKE in our household! ;-) ).

2. Whole Self Health

Dave’s Wellness Challenge booklet reads like a handbook for the “Health for the Whole Self” philosophy! Attention is paid to all types of health and well-being, rather than just the physical. Here are some of non-physical health activities for which participants can earn points:

  • Spending quality time with friends and family
  • Enjoying the outdoors
  • Attending a cultural activity
  • Relaxing, meditating, or spending time on a hobby
  • Donating blood
  • Planting flowers, a vegetable, or a tree

There are many more too! I really appreciate that the focus is on taking care of the whole self, recognizing that health is as much about our minds and our spirits as it is about our bodies.

3. Teamwork

Participants in the Wellness Challenge do not compete individually; rather, they are organized into teams. I love this idea because it provides an opportunity to motivate and encourage others, in addition to creating a system of accountability. (You can even earn points for encouraging your fellow team members!) Sure, it might sound a little cheesy, but study after study has shown that healthy habits are far more challenging to maintain when the people around you aren’t on board. It will also make the challenge that much more fun; I’m imagining Dave and his co-workers inspecting one another’s lunches (in a playful way!) to see who has the most veggies! :lol:


4. Providing Information

There is nothing I hate more than when people are told they need to “get healthy” and then are sent on their merry way. A little more information would be nice, don’t you think?  :-? I feel like I know a lot about health and fitness, but that’s only because I read lots of health-related books, magazines, research articles, and blogs. The average person who isn’t engaged in the healthy living community doesn’t automatically have the tools and the resources needed to “get healthy.”

That’s why I was so happy to see that the Wellness Challenge booklet includes some useful information. It offers strategies for improving bone health, information on My Pyramid, tips for creating a family fitness plan, and suggestions for ways to manage stress. You can also earn points for reading a health-related book or article.

Overall I am really excited for Dave to participate in this challenge! (I am going to try not to be too annoying in asking him how he’s doing! ;-) )

Have you ever participated in a health/wellness challenge, through work, school, or some other organization? What did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are your thoughts on how such challenges should be structured? I participated in a health challenge over the winter holidays, and overall I thought it was great motivation! I did, however, find tallying my points every day to be a bit cumbersome.

19 Responses to “Work Wellness Challenge”

  1. that’s so awesome! this challenge sounds awesome, and is definitely reinforcing the right things in my opinion :) i’ve never done a workplace health challenge, but the great thing is that 90% of our office practices all of this anyway :)

  2. Tamara says:

    I personally wouldn’t benefit from a Health Challenge, because I have an overly competitive personality and points etc. lead me down a very dangerous path. Example: “I promised to eat 5 veggies today for the challenge. I didn’t eat 5 veggies today. I failed. I’m such a loser. I shouldn’t have had that cake. I need to eat less tomorrow. And run five miles…”

    But for regular non-obsessive types it’s a great idea–especially if it has the positive vibe of your husband’s. I wish my sweetie’s workplace did something like this. Then he might eat his green beans instead of pushing them aside.

  3. Tina says:

    I have never participated in one, but this one really is a great example of how it should be done. With all the rambling thoughts I have in my head and how I know I want to get into personal training and wellness coaching in the future, I have thought it would be cool to lead activities like this. Glad to know there are things like it already out there being exposed to the general public.

  4. That sounds like a great challenge! Bravo to his workplace! I haven’t ever participated in anything like that before – but I have also only been in the “workplace” for about 2 years and haven’t had the opportunity. I don’t know if I would do one or not if it was offered… I would have to look over the whole program and then make a decision!

  5. the only ones my work or club ever did were so stupid.. like stupid rice famine day .. lol eating white rice only was never fun.. it was supposed to be to support the poor health of 3rd world countries so it wasent really a ‘health challenge’.. but it was def. a challenge nonetheless. lol.

  6. Jennifer says:

    That is a really great thing that his workplace is doing! I have never been involved in anything like that and neither has my husband because we have always been self-employed. However, I guess if you want to call it a challenge, 2 months ago my husband wanted to lose some weight and exercise more before we go on our cruise to Mexico this Monday. He is nowhere overweight but spends a lot of time in the office at a computer and can’t be as active as he used to be. Plus, going on a cruise almost guarantees weight gain with all of that amazing food so he would rather shed some weight before the cruise rather than having to work extra hard to get it off afterward. He cut out things like sweet tea and soda and that alone has made a big difference. He also feels physically better. So I guess our little “challenge” was a success!

  7. Nicole, RD says:

    That’s great of his work place to be so proactive about health! I’ll be interested to see how it goes.

    My workplace had willing participants create teams to work on increasing exercise. You logged your exercise minutes and they were converted to miles on a program that logged a car going from the east side of the US going to the west. A lot of miles! Employees were logging EVERYTHING in there. My team was honest and we did really well — all nearly doing 60 minutes or more of TRUE activity daily. These teams were logging going to church, grocery shopping, cleaning, you name it. HELLO, people! LIVING is NOT EXERCISE!! I was SO mad!

  8. I have never participated in a health challenge at work…but I work at a gym so I am usually the on putting them on! :)

  9. Erica says:

    Never participated in one myself, but I think it is a great great idea and I feel like more companies are doing more and more of this which is a huge plus in my books!

  10. Lauren says:

    I am a huge supporter of worksite wellness programs. Since people spend most of their days there, it’s nice to see employers encouraging healthy habits. As long as it’s phrased in a positive manner, like you said.

    I’ve participated in a challenge at work that was actually a “statewide” competition. You formed teams from your workplace and competed in different categories (all optional) — weight loss, number of steps taken, and total hours of physical activity. There were a ton of resources to help along the way and a website to log/track your progress. It’s actually become quite popular in my state now.

    The only drawback I see to things like this is that oftentimes the people who participate are the ones that need it least… while those who would benefit most tend to sit it out (maybe out of intimidation?). I think a truly successful program would be as inclusive as possible for anyone at ANY stage.

  11. I’ve never participated in a health challenge, and I can say right now that it’s definitely not something I’d be interested in. Even with the focus on the whole self (which, is a wonderful thing to see incorporated in the challenge!) I’d see it as another form of stress in my life. I’m just naturally a very non-competitive person, so any form of competition totally turns me off :/ With that being said, though, I think that health challenges could be a very beneficial thing for many people! Namely people who love competition more than I do :P

  12. Lauren says:

    Such a great concept. My work as a Wellness committee and offers various events and challenges like this. They also have monthly Lunch n’ Learns that focus on a different healthy topic each time. It’s so good to know that companies are taking a more serious approach to bettering their employees. Not just loosing weight, but overall health!

  13. Good luck to Dave in this challenge! I’ve never participated in one myself, but know people who have, and I think it was a positive experience for most of them. However, I agree that weight-loss challenges can be dangerous and often lead people to extreme, unhealthy behavior. Last year, one of my friends was desperate to lose weight before taking a trip to Mexico. She and a friend decided to do a little competition with each other to see who could reach their goal weight first. They both logged long hours and the gym and cut way back on calories. They lost weight, but the competition strained their friendship. My friend says she felt lethargic and came close to passing out at the gym a few times. Definitely not healthy!

    But overall I think health challenges provide a great incentive for people to incorporate small changes into their lifestyle that will improve their physical and emotional well-being. :-)

    • Katie says:

      Wow that is incredibly unhealthy! That is exactly why I was wary at first; what seems like innocent competition can quickly turn into an unhealthy obsession!

  14. I’ve never participated in one, but this one sounds very good. My hubs work does it, but it’s completely “biggest loser”. Nothing about being healthy at all

  15. Hey could I quote some of the content found in this blog if I provide a link back to your site?

  16. Liss Futchko says:

    I just found this blog as I was reseaching wellness programs. The program that they did sounds fantastic! I have been looking for examples of what people used to track and score the results. Any examples of what was used would be really helpful! Thank you.

    • Katie says:

      The way it worked was that people were divided into teams, and it was the team leader’s responsibility to manually tally and send in everyone’s points weekly. There was a pretty elaborate point system: 1 point for daily activities like drinking 8 glasses of water, eating so many fruits/veggies, etc. 5 points for exercising for 30 minutes 5 times per week, 10 points for reading a book on health/fitness, etc.

      If you’re interested, I can see if someone at my husband’s work still has a copy of the points booklet they used that I could send to you. Shoot me an email (contact info on side bar) and let me know! :)

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