Fitness Challenge Blog

Maximize Participation with a Multi-Activity Challenge

November 19, 2015 by Joseph

It happens sooner or later to every administrator of fitness challenges. You get by for a little while offering walking challenges and / or weight loss challenges in different flavors but eventually you will need to switch things up to boost participation. An easy solution: offer a multi-activity challenge.

The multi-activity (or multi-mode) challenge opens up infinite variety to kick start a wellness program. Simply stated, multi-activity challenges allow participants to compete in two or more activities for a given duration. This mitigates many of the negatives associated with a single-activity challenges such as: distance runners ruining a walking challenge or the limited participation of a weight-loss challenge. If those two activities were grouped in a single challenge, your entire population could participate and, if structured correctly, have a shot at winning. The main considerations for an administrator when designing a multi-activity fitness challenge are the types of activities, their respective weightings, and timing.

Selecting Activities

One of the great benefits of multi-activity challenges is that it allows for admin creativity. Too often challenges become repetitive and unimaginative, which eventually leads to poor participation rates. With a multi-activity fitness challenge, the admin may choose from a virtually unlimited combination of activities and, in doing so, open the challenge up to a much broader audience. Administering a walking or active minutes challenge brings in your runners and fitness fans. Adding a weight-loss challenge brings in participants with that goal in mind. Including a nutritional aspect such as “daily vegetables eaten” would be beneficial too, and obtainable by, all participants.

Weighing Activities

Assigning weightings to activities is not an issue with single activity challenges. A participant with 100,000 steps wins over a participants with 99,000 steps and a participant who sheds 9% of body weight loses to another who drops 10%. This is obviously not the case with multi-activity challenges where simply using numbers doesn’t work. John, who walks 100,000 steps and drops 9% of his weight, would have a total score of 100,009 while Jane, who walks 99,000 steps and loses 10% of body weight, would have a combined score of 99,010. In this case, Jane loses the challenge even though dropping an extra percent of body weight is certainly harder than walking an extra 1,000 steps.

The answer to this problem is to assign weightings to each activity. The problem to this answer is that coming up with appropriate weighting is very subjective. Do you give 10,000 points for each percent of weight lost or should you give 50,000 points? Unfortunately, assigning appropriate weightings to activities may take a few challenge cycles plus a little analysis and thought to get right. Even so, creating a few baselines can help with creating initial weightings.

One possible solution is to establish a “best-case” for each activity and then make each of the best-cases equivalent. For instance, a quick search on Google revealed:

  • 10,000 steps a day (approximately 5 miles) is considered a good goal for the average participant.
  • It takes the average person 1.6 hours (96 minutes) to walk 5 miles at 3.1 mph (average walking speed).
  • For safety reasons a personal trainer will set a maximum weight loss goal of 2 pounds per week.
  • The average American adult female and male reports their weights as 160 pounds and 196 pounds respectively.

From these four pieces of information, one can easily set 10,000 steps equal to 96 minutes of physical activity. A weight loss equivalent is a bit more difficult since we are using percentages over multiple weeks for both sexes.

To simplify the equation, use the average female weight since women are much more likely to participate in a weight loss challenge. Next, convert 2 pounds of weight loss to a percentage of weight lost which comes to roughly 1.3% weight loss per week. When looking only at desired outcomes, the following is revealed: 1.3 percent weight loss per week = 70,000 steps per week = 672 minutes of activity per week

Reducing those numbers gives the following:
1 percent weight loss per week = 53,900 steps per week = 517 minutes of activity per week

Now, you must determine how many points to award your participants. Do you want to give 53,900 points for each percent of weight lost or do you want to give 0.0000186 points for each step taken? Meeting somewhere in the middle might be best where each percent of weight lost is worth 10,000 points and each step is worth 0.186 points.

Realize that these are only rough estimates and should be thought of as such. If you want to emphasize weight loss, give it a higher weighting. If you want to maximize time spent in physical training, give active minutes more weight. Also consider alternative activities such as awarding points for vegetables eaten or water consumed. While it might be desirable to consume 8 cups of water per day, setting that activity equivalent to 10,000 steps is a bit excessive. Therefore, you might want to award the participant a fraction of that such as 2,000 or 3,000 points.

Timing Activities

An added benefit to multi-activity challenges is the ability to offset the scheduling of activities. While it is perfectly fine to run all of your activities at the same time, it can also be advantageous to occasionally run activities back-to-back to keep things interesting and put emphasis on each one. While weight loss would probably not work in a series of one-week activities, almost any other activity would. Therefore, you could start with a walking event the first week, have a nutrition-based activity the second, a planking activity the third and so on.

Creativity is the Key

As stated earlier, multi-activity challenges allow for much greater creativity from the administrator. This creativity will provide more diverse challenges which will, in turn, allow more participants to effectively compete and increase overall participation. Since wellness programs achieve maximum ROI when participation is high, the engagement generated by multi-activity challenges may be critical to a successful program.

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