The Fitness Challenge Handbook

Designing The Challenge

Measurable

For the challenge to be deemed a success, a measureable outcome must be obtained. It is not enough to simply congratulate the participants for their hard work and award prizes based on observation or to just give all participants the same prize. By measuring participation effort, you give the challenge credibility and maximize participant effort. The methods for entering the data itself fall into three distinct categories: Admin recorded, the honor system and automated data entry.

Admin Recorded Data

Admin recorded data can take two forms: Data that is collected and recorded by the admin and data that is collected by the participant but recorded by the admin. In the first case, there is no need for validation and, provided the measurement was performed correctly, one can assume accurate data. In the second case, you also can assume data is accurate but it should be validated against some reasonable expectation such as: a physically detuned individual submitting 30,000 steps in one day or losing 20 pounds in one week. The outlier data should not be considered inaccurate without first being verified with the individual since it is still possible under extreme circumstances.
There are still a few issues with admin recorded data. Most notable is that it is practically impossible for the admin to collect anything beyond biometric measurements (weight, BMI, blood pressure, etc.) on a periodic basis. The second problem is that entering daily values for more than a few users would quickly turn into a maintenance nightmare. Transposing participant data from a few hundred emails or other manual system would just be inviting data entry errors not to mention the huge amount of work involved.

The Honor System

Since requiring the admin to enter data daily for each participant would be very inefficient, most fitness challenges must rely on the honor system. When implementing the honor system, participants are expected to record their data honestly and in a timely manner.
The problem with the honor system is that the challenge can be skewed, either willfully or by accident, by any of the participants. To combat this, all data must be checked for reasonableness and the rules of the challenge should be emphasized to all participants.
If possible, each participant’s physical progress should be periodically logged in addition to the data recorded during the challenge. Using standard biometric evaluations such as weight, BMI, blood pressure, VO2 Max and the like as part of the overall wellness program allows the admin to roughly validate a participants claimed activity. If the participant has recorded 30 minutes of daily physical activity over the past several weeks, they should show improvement in their vital statistics. After all, employee progress is necessary if the company is going to realize benefits from the wellness program.

Automated Data Entry

There are several products on the market today that will automate the process of collecting and recording data. Some of these products even upload the collected data into a corporate fitness challenge system. While an automated system would clearly help with collecting and recording participant information, the technology is currently only available for recording a limited number of activities such as a walking with a pedometer or general activity. The upside of eliminating manual interaction is certainly attractive but it will limit the types of challenges you can run and adds complexity with the additional software that must be installed and maintained on multiple desktops. Even so, fitness tracking technology improves every year and may someday become the cornerstone of the wellness challenge.
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