The word is out: Walking is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get your daily exercise. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking every day has been proven to increase muscle strength and flexibility, drastically decrease the risk of heart disease, and improve mental health and well-being, among myriad other positive effects. Moreover, walking is a fun and potentially social activity that is totally and utterly free.
Unfortunately, people continue to drag their feet when it comes to walking for health. Still, with the help of caring and creative individuals or companies, we can get a large portion of the American population up and moving in 2015 with the pedometer challenge.
What Is the Challenge?
Simply put, the pedometer challenge dares people to take 10,000 steps or more every day. That magic number equals the exertion it takes to complete 30 minutes of vigorous activity — as advocated by the surgeon general — and is roughly equal to a distance of five miles. Taking 10,000 steps every day has been conclusively shown to increase weight loss, lower risks for diabetes and heart disease, and improve a person’s mood and energy levels. With a healthy body and a good attitude, a person can accomplish almost anything.
Individuals are highly encouraged to complete the pedometer challenge on their own, but it is much more enjoyable to rally a group in your community for a little friendly competition. Not only does amassing a group of fellow steppers make you more accountable for your own commitment to the program, but it allows you to spend more time with friends performing a healthy activity. However, it will take a bit of planning to institute an organized pedometer challenge — which brings us to the next section.
How Do I Organize a Challenge in My Community?
It could not be easier to get a pedometer challenge up and running, as long as you have on hand an Internet connection and a group of interested participants. If you are lacking the latter requirement, you can rope in your friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church-goers, or other members of community with promises of drastically improved health — and maybe a monetary prize. After assembling a group, you can begin the pedometer challenge in earnest.
Step one: Procure pedometers. Every participant must have at least one pedometer that measures steps and stride to keep track of his or her movements during the challenge. Including stride is important because it allows the pedometer to keep track of the distance one moves as well as the steps one takes. Some pedometer challenges encourage their participants to invest in two pedometers; if one device fails in the middle of the competition, most participants don’t want to waste precious steps while they wait for a replacement device to arrive.
Step two: Write the rules. Obviously, every challenge’s goal should be to get people in the habit of taking 10,000 steps per day. To guide your participants to achieving this goal, you should draft a list of rules, to include duration for the challenge, a reward for the winning individual or team, and penalties to prevent cheaters from prospering. For example, your rules may read:
- Teams must be no more than five people.
- Every participant must submit $5 to enter challenge, which will contribute to the winners’ pot.
- The challenge will begin midnight, April 1 and end midnight, April 30.
- Those found lying about their daily step count must bring lunch for every challenge participant.
Step three: Share a record. The challenge is most fun when you can check daily on other peoples’ or teams’ progress. Using Google Docs or another document sharing app, you can send out an Excel sheet that allows individuals or teams to enter their step totals.
Step four: Have fun. More than anything, the pedometer challenge is meant to be a fun way to get and stay fit. If your participants aren’t having a good time, you may need to change-up the rules — or change-up their attitudes, as described in the final section.
How Can I Keep Participants Motivated?
While the friendly competition inspired by the challenge may get people initially interested in physical activity, it is more than likely that some motivations begin to wane as the weeks wear on. Fortunately, legions of veteran pedometer challengers before you have developed tried and true methods for keeping participants enthused, including:
- Sending out weekly email newsletters with current standings.
- Giving additional rewards for certain milestones or individual accomplishments.
- Accomplishing daily goals as a team.
- Varying walking styles by regularly changing routes, terrains, speeds, or more.
The pedometer challenge should inspire your community to place a greater focus on individual health, especially when it comes to daily exercise. With your guidance, you could have a stronger, happier community in just 10,000 steps.
Guest post by Cher Zavala