It’s basic but true: Your chances of starting and sticking with a fitness program increase if you’re among friends. The motivation and encouragement — and even a little healthy competition — that a group provides is hard to replicate by yourself.
To help you get started, we want to share some tips that have proven reliable for the fitness programs we’ve started at BCBSNC for our employees. These steps are ready-made for co-workers, neighborhood friends, church groups — just about any setting where folks get together.
They’re also designed to be easy to start: Gym memberships and marathon experience not required! In fact, our most successful programs are based on “steps,” typically walking or some activity that can be tracked easily with an inexpensive pedometer, digital wristband or smartphone app.
Here are the five tips to help you and your friends get started on the road to better fitness:
Step 1: Issue the challenge. As you reach out to friends or co-workers to start your fitness program, make sure you’ve mapped out the details. One thing to build in is a method of tracking progress. For our BCBSNC program called “Ready Step Go,” employees used Fitbit devices to track steps. Pedometers and other wearables also work. Using the activity group in Fitbit, we were able to check our group’s leader board to see who was working their way to the top, and who needed a little nudge.
Step 2: Establish goals. Determine the length of your challenge, whether it’s eight weeks, 10 weeks or three months. And pick a tangible goal like working up to 10,000 steps a day. During Week 1, get a baseline to see how many steps you take on a typical day while going about your normal routine. After you have a baseline, set interim goals for yourself or the whole group to help you advance toward the final goal.
Step 3: Stay connected. Have a group leader send out an email or text on how to add steps to your day. Connect with group members to share your own tips and tricks for adding steps. You never know what little change can make a big difference — like parking at the back of the parking lot, or walking up and down all of the aisles in the grocery store.
Step 4: Get creative. Have fun with this challenge. Are you competitive? Find a buddy to challenge to see who can get the most steps. Looking to involve the family? Start incorporating walks after dinner. The possibilities are endless.
Step 5: Measure and celebrate. Plan a mid-challenge event to see how the group is doing. Get together for a group walk at the park or get the neighborhood together to add some extra steps with a field day. Then, at the end of the challenge, for anyone who met the goal you can make a certificate, or find fun medals from Walmart or Party City to hand out. You could also hold a healthy potluck dinner to celebrate everyone’s success, because even if you increase your steps just a little, you’re still making strides toward better health!
So how did we do at BCBSNC? We issued two eight-week challenges, starting with the basics, and then we asked our employees to “step it up.” The first challenge involved finding a baseline and sharing ways employees could add steps to their day.
Then we upped the ante in the second challenge by raising the daily step target by 3,500, and established a goal to become a “Super Stepper” for those who made it to 10,000 steps a day for six of the eight weeks in the program. These are examples of dreaming big but staying focused on achieving incremental gains that improve everyone’s fitness level.
In our two programs alone, our employees completed nearly 290 million steps and more than 8.1 million active minutes, and have covered enough miles to circle the globe 5.1 times. Of the almost 1,000 employees who actively participated, 22 percent were reaching the 10,000 steps per day goal at the end of the two programs. And you can do it too!
Let us know your experiences or questions about establishing a fitness challenge with your friends by posting on Facebook or in the comments below. Happy stepping!