A Wellness Champion at 72!

Watch out everyone, Lola might just lap you.  Averaging 9,000 steps/day and motivating her colleagues along the way, she is a force to be reckoned with!

Let me take a step back and introduce you all to the Para La Naturaleza Walker Tracker Program. Located in Puerto Rico, this group is a blast to work with and is always looking to the positive side of things. Perhaps all those good vibes add to Lola’s energy and stamina.

I encourage you to read her story below and let it inspire you in your own quest to a healthier life. Lola picture 1

“Lola, you’re a champ.” That’s what co-workers say to María Dolores Méndez, who manages the greenhouse on the Nature Reserve of Las Cabezas de San Juan.

In the mornings María moves from one part to another of the reserve looking for seedlings to transplant. Afterwards, “Lola”, as her endearing coworkers call her, walks from her house to the community track in Fajardo. There she walks 17 laps, which add up to her 9,000 steps per day that she records on Walker Tracker.

Since Lola was a small girl she’s gone everywhere by foot. Because she didn’t have another way of getting around, walking was an integral part of her life, so when the opportunity to participate in the Para la Naturaleza Wellness Program came along, she was all in. This was a chance to go back to being what she used to be, a person who walked everywhere. She chose the 10,000 steps-per-day level challenge and has not stopped since she started. Lola has noted improvements in her health, she feels more upbeat and is more active. Lola says: “Everything is better” since she’s increased her activity level and made some adjustments to her diet. During her last visit to the cardiologist the doctor said: “Lola, your blood pressure is like that of a kid. What have you been doing?”. Lola explained all the changes she had made as a result of the Wellness Program and the doctor asked her to continue these activities as they were benefiting her health. In addition, the program nutritionist proposed she lose 4 pounds, Lola lost 5.

Not everyone has the energy and strength that the 72 year old María has. Her enthusiasm is so great that she invited a friend to walk with her on the track, but a few days later, her friend lost interest and stopped coming.

Whether or not she has company, “Lola” makes an effort to be in one of the top places in the competition. Lola is focused on winning. Her pedometer only tracks walking steps and she insists that to make it to the finish line “what you have to do is walk”. In addition, she tells her fellow participants that if they put some effort into it “you can all be winners”.

The relationship with her colleagues has greatly improved since the program started. “We’ve grown closer because we have more in common to talk about”, Lola states.

Lola urges everyone else to accept the challenge, because it is very good for their health. During the first few days they may be tired and might feel some achy muscles, but they’ll see the benefits will start adding up quickly. Lola shares this bit of advice with enthusiasm: “don’t give up, move forward and you won’t regret it”.

Click here to view the full version in Spanish

New: Walker Tracker Android app with Google Fit integration

We’ve updated our Android app – head over to the Google Play store to download it now.

First and foremost: Bug fixes. We fixed a number of outstanding bugs, some of them show-stoppers, and massaged a few key UI points.


screenshot_2015-08-27-15-51-47_1024screenshot_2015-08-27-11-06-18_1024Google Fit integration: have Google Fit on your phone? Easily connect into the Walker Tracker app to have your steps synced auto-magically.

Device Sync status: If your Walker Tracker account is connected to a Misfit, Fitbit, Jawbone, Withings, Pebble, etc — you’ll see the device status and last sync right in your app.

Lastly: Competitions are now updated to handle points-based challenges.

Let us know what you think.



Photos of 2,000 calorie meals

The New York Times has an incredible  piece called “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like” where they compare 2,000 calorie meals across restaurants, and then pit those against home-cooked meals.

The results are not going to be a surprise to anyone. Home-cooked meals regularly cost less than fast food, are way abundant, and much healthier.

Restaurant vs Home:


Shake Shack 2,000 calories


At home, 2,000 calories

Upcoming changes to points

This weekend we’ll introduce a large re-vamping of our points system.

Here are the salient pieces:

— Points-based competitions!
Administrators will be able to create points-based competitions using a large number of different metrics on the site that one can earn points for.  Want to have a competition around healthy eating, or a photo-based competition, or only hitting one’s step goal? All can be accomplished! We’re really excited about this.

Changed point values
— Points values are quite a bit different. As an example you currently receive 5 points for achieving your step goal. With this release, that number will be 25 points. Points can be measured by the day, by the week, or by any timeframe you wish via a competition.

Points for more things
— You earn points for more things, all of which a program administrator can turn on or off:

  • Custom metrics
  • Answering the correct answer on a site question
  • Winning a competition
  • Passing a map milestone

Re-vamped Points screen & Giveaway Points icons
Points screen

Free Days
— An administrator can allow walkers to take a ‘Free Day’. This is perfect for programs that want an equalizer, allowing an employee a ‘day of rest’ without being penalized. You choose how many free days you wish to allow.

Levels are gone…
— We’re removing the concept of ‘levels’. In the coming weeks we’ll replace this with a more goal-based ‘badge’ system, where you earn a badge for reaching certain milestones.

Levels update! After some consideration and feedback from you, we’ve decided to keep the concept of levels. They’ll be de-emphasized a little, and the number of points required to meet each level will change. However, levels are a great way to measure long-term progress.

We’re really excited about these changes, and we hope you’ll like them too.

A Step Up in Heart Health

It’s always great to hear success stories coming from our programs! It’s amazing how taking a walk and getting active can change someone’s life and inspire others. Our collaboration with Hadassah in their Every Beat Counts campaign is motivating their participants to walk from their headquarters in New York all the way to Jerusalem while fundraising and promoting heart health for Jewish women. 

Their program administrator and health rockstar, Eliana (who is also participating) has been featured in a Jewish parenting blog and shares her experience with their Walker Tracker program titled “Every Step Counts”. Thanks to little changes in her routine Eliana has been able to almost double her daily step goal. Check out her blog post and story titled “I’m Walking Off My Baby Weight With Hadassah” on Kveller and get some inspiration from a fellow walker!

Honesty and Accuracy

We are asked all the time from program leaders, “how do you prevent people from cheating?” We have a number of ways to promote honestly recording steps and discourage cheating. But it all comes down to you, the individual.

I recently saw an email from one of our all-star admins on this subject. She reminds her walkers of Integrity. Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain.

She understands how frustrating it can be for some walkers (who feel they are using the site with honesty and accuracy) to see other users log seemingly impossible step numbers or hours of activity every day.

My take: We (Walker Tracker, Wellness advocates, program administrators) are here to help better the health and life of our users through walking. We hope to lead participants to lives free of disease, with more energy and healthy habits!   If we can throw in a fun friendly competition and incentives along the way, excellent!  Not honestly recording and not walking/exercising is really only cheating one person – yourself.


Now, here is what we CAN do to avoid ‘cheating’:

1. Limit the activity converter options – you can prevent a lot of ‘step inflation’ by limiting the list to activities that aren’t tracked by a pedometer. Most pedometers do a pretty great job at tracking golf, hiking and running. What they may not excel in is tracking swimming and biking. 2. Let Sir Tortoise take it from here - This new feature sends subtle speeding tickets to walkers when they log really large step entries. If you post more than 40,000 steps, he friends you on the site. Tortoise If he’s already added you as a friend, and you add a large step entry, he posts a comment, “Nice entry…!” nice entry 3.  Multiple challenge levels/goals – this option has been popular with programs that have varying fitness levels (beginners reaching for 5,000 steps/day or regular walkers aiming for 10,000 every day). This allows everyone to compete at a level they are confortable with.

4. Incentive/award changes – Sometimes, it all comes down to this in the end. What are they walking for? If it’s better health and wellness – you’ve already won! If it’s incentives, that’s great too! You’ve managed to encourage folks to move more, get healthy, and participate in a company event. Here are some ways we can base the incentives on more ‘meaningful’ goals, and reduce the urge to cheat along the way:

  • Goal based – award walkers for reaching the program goal daily (such as 7,000 steps/day), not for logging the most steps or reaching the finish first.
  • Diligence – award your walkers for their diligent tracking on the site. Our points system (now customizable!) can be a great way to award the biggest cheerleader on your staff, the person who walks everyday, or the person who reaching the goal consistently.
  • Most improved – let’s set the baseline in week 1 and re-visit their average at the end of the challenge.
  • Weekly goals – this gives your walkers more than 1 chance to win, and encourages them to participate throughout the entire program, even if they had a rough start. Some ideas: Walk Wednesday (walkers who log 10,000 steps on Wednesday are eligible), Fitness Friday (walkers who log other activity), Weekend Warriors (those who log steps over the weekend), Talk it out Tuesday (walkers who post a fitness tip on the challenge discussion board)
  • Team Awards – instead of giving the prize to the first team to race to the finish, consider this:

o   1st place – the top 10 teams are eligible

o   2nd place – the top 20 teams are eligible

o   3rd place – the top 30 teams are eligible

  Do you have an incentive plan that has worked well with your Wellness program, please share! We love to pass ideas along to other programs.

New: iOS – teams pane redesign + activity converter!

Last week we released version 1.4 of our iOS app which included a re-built activity converter that’s customizable by your program administrator. You’ll find all of the convert-able activities that you see on the website now. Hooray!

This week, there’s a re-built Teams pane. See your team average, the leaderboard, and chat with your team mates. We think you’ll like this version a lot better. We’ll keep making it better – Let us know what you think… and of course, if you like it, nothing says so more than a review on the app store (wink wink).

IMG_6502 IMG_6503

Movin’ and Groovin’

Every morning when my fiance and I get up to go workout (4:30AM ouch!), we walk into a gym that is blaring some sort of techno, electronica or hip hop. Although I usually cringe at the music and quickly shove my headphones in to listen to my own version of motivational music, I know why they play that music. It’s upbeat, it’s lively, it’s what is needed to get us awake and moving at that early hour of the morning, if it were silent I’d probably sneak into the sauna and sleep. Think about it. You’d be hard pressed to find a gym or exercise class that doesn’t have some form of music happening in the background. Can you imagine putting your all into a silent spin class or salsa-ing in Zumba to no Enrique Iglesias or Shakira? Music = motivation and it helps to set the mood and fuel the workout.

In a study conducted by the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University they found that the beats per minute (bpm) of a song had a direct correlation to the performance of a cyclist on a stationary bike. The quicker the pace of the song, the faster they peddled and the slower the song the slower they peddled which resulted in the bikers heart rate dropping and a decrease in their overall performance. Not only is music important to your workout but the type of music you listen to is important. Now, I am not here to tell you to listen to a certain genre or musician but I can tell you that the agreed upon beats per minute of a song for a steady paced workout should be anywhere from 120 to 140. So how might you find out whether your favorite song is within that range? Check out this handy website that tells you the beats per minute of almost any song you are wondering about. When it comes to taking a stroll, stick to around 115-118 bpm. Power walking today? Go for 135-140 bpm. If you’re looking to run try to stick in the 140-160 range.

It really is remarkable what you are able to accomplish when you have a good soundtrack accompanying you. Perhaps you’ll find that some of your favorite songs are great for the type of workout you are wanting to accomplish or branch out and listen to some tunes that are outside your norm. I love asking my friends and family what some of their favorite upbeat songs are and giving them a try (although my fiance really digs heavy metal so that doesn’t work so well for me). I also like making a great playlist and not letting myself listen to any of the songs in it unless I am working out which is another great motivator to get me going. Now salsa/dougie/two step your way over to your tennis shoes and get movin’ and groovin’!


wireless pedometer / activity tracker integration update

New this week: Garmin devices!

I’ve been using my Garmin Vivofit with much success. 351162-garmin-vivofit


This brings device companies that Walker Tracker integrates with to EIGHT. Here they are:

  • Fitlinxx Pebble
  • Fitbit
  • Misfit
  • Garmin
  • Jawbone
  • Apple Health
  • Withings
  • Moves App

And of course, for programs that desire it, we allow manual entry as well.

Let us know what your favorite device is.


Activity Challenges and Incentives

We ran a team challenge this winter, partly to test a new way to drive participation, and partly because, well, that’s just what we do around here.

Previous internal challenges had varying levels of participation and success – some were outstanding from start to finish, while others started slower and fizzled even more near the end. Winter weather, daylight hours, and heavy work-loads all have a negative impact on participation so we set out to find an incentive formula that might up the fun-factor and get the “buzz” going.   Walker Tracker employees tend to be pretty active, so providing motivation to exercise is not as much of an issue here as it may be in other organizations. With us, it’s more about competition and teamwork.

Would $$ make a big difference?

There is an important debate going on in the wellness world around the efficacy of incentives to drive behavior change. We have had the chance to observe many corporate programs and generally believe that paying people to live a certain way doesn’t work very well in the long-term.  That said, we have also seen really good results when incentives are used to create game-like structure to captivate and maintain interest. There’s a subtle, but important, difference between the two approaches.

In this most recent challenge we set out to test different reward scenarios:

  • What’s the impact of adding a ‘buy-in’?
  • How much difference does it make to add a company match to the pot?
  • Does including spouses/partners increase the competitiveness of the challenge?

Here were the specifics:

The Competition: Al Capone’s Chicago (Walker Tracker’s first-person virtual tour of Gangland Chicago in the 20′s)

The Device: Fitlinxx Pebble

Teams:  Employee and spouse/partner/friend

The Pot: $10/ea buy-in with Walker Tracker matching the participant contributions

There were three chances to win and each team can only win once. So, the pot was to be split three ways.

  1. team with the most total steps (not what we usually recommend, but Walker Tracker employees are super competitive with each other)
  2. team with the highest number of days over goal for both members
  3. highest poker hand from the total step number (a fun way to keep everyone in the game)

The generous “pot” created a nice buzz from the start. Clever team names emerged, always a good sign that employees are getting into the spirit. Soon the banter began and we all knew this was going to be a hotly contested challenge.

The challenge began in the middle of Portland’s typically wet and grey winter, when motivation to go outside wanes. Some teams had a strategy of going for several, independent, short walks mid-day. Other teams drew motivation from their dogs when they got home on those dreary Portland winter days. Spouses and partners provided ample encouragement to one another to get out there and walk for the “sake of the team”.

Participants were surveyed at the end of the challenge and here’s what we found:

1) The prize pool positively impacted registrations, but it wasn’t the primary driving factor for most teams to complete the event.  The company match had the positive effect of increasing the prize pool enough to have three separate winning teams. In the end, the monetary prizes were more of a competitive “badge of honor” than a desire for the cash itself. The prizes were more about competitive people keeping score, pure and simple.

2) Adding spouses/partners to the mix was a big motivator. We found that non-employee spouses were really enthusiastic about being part of the company challenge and often ended up ‘nagging’ their teammate to get out there and walk.  Key finding – the teams whose members walked together had the best results.

3) The buy-in really helped to solidify the commitment of the teams. Pulling $10 out of your wallet/purse wakes you up to the fact that you really have signed up for something. On that note, we highly recommend that the buy-in be collected up-front.

Challenge Results:  In the end it was great fun to compete with our friends and loved ones. The winning teams  were ‘Tay+Jac’ with the highest step total. They had some phenomenal walking days, especially on weekends.  ‘Walking Pneumonia’* got the prize for team with the highest number of days over goal for both members. And, even after coming in dead last, team ‘Long Legs’ walked away with the prize for highest poker hand from the total step number (a rather pathetic two-pair, 8′s and 2′s).

*the Walking Pneumonia team started the first two weeks with both members sick and one member literally hospitalized with pneumonia.