Health Gadgets and Goodies at Consumer Electronics Show

Can tech help health? Yes! There’s a groundswell of gadgets and goodies coming to the market, showing how quickly this segment is developing. I particularly love the companies focused on helping kids develop healthy habits, though I think I prefer my own childhood running after balls and jumping rope and whatnot, over playing dance dance revolution in the classroom. Perhaps it’s a matter of generational taste…

Go here for the low down:

You asked for better weekly stats

Our programing elves have been hard at work… We’re always improving the Walker Tracker program, and we always love to hear ways that we can make Walker Tracker better for you. Over the last year, many of our clients have requested regular status emails sent to their walkers to both increase engagement in their company wellness initiative, and to provide real-time feedback on walking performance.

We thought this was a great idea!

Based on your input, we’ve built a  (rather handsome) weekly status email (see screen shot below). The email shows your walkers what they’ve done in the last week—total steps taken, miles covered, and calories burned, plus it gives an update on how they’re doing in the competition and how they’re performing compared to their friends. We also have an area for health and wellness tips, and we’re collaborating with a certified fitness coach to help us build great, relevant, and useful content, every week. Employees can easily turn this off in their settings (each email contains instructions how), or you can turn it off program-wide in your Admin Features area.

Thanks for all your great feedback, and keep the requests coming. This is your tool, and we want to hear from you.

Spouses walk free in our Mediterranean Walking Challenge

Today we officially announced a promotion we’re really excited about.

An 8 week corporate/organization walking challenge around the perimeter of the Mediterranean — what’s going to make it especially great, though, is that we’re inviting the spouses of employee programs to walk for free. This goes straight to the heart of  one of our oft-said mottoes as we make walking and activity challenges a deeply social experience:

You’re as fit as your friends

Spouses walk free – a Mediterranean walking challenge!


How Subtle Changes (and a little patience) Can Bring Dramatic Results

When I first started working for Walker Tracker, I have to admit, I thought it was a little silly that people actually used the site as a means to motivate themselves to walk more. Then I started to do research. I realized that the use of corporate walking programs is huge these days. I had no idea.  Then it clicked. Just like people have different learning methods, they also have different exercise methods. Mine happens to be the solitary way, but there is nothing wrong with creating community to help motivate a more healthy and active lifestyle.

I had forgotten how scary and frustrating it can be while taking those first steps (yes, pun intended) towards getting active. Getting your body to do things it’s not used to doing is never easy. And there is nothing more frustrating than not seeing the results you want right away. It’s easy to forget that noticeable results take time. I think one reason a lot of people give up on attaining a more active way of life is because we live in a culture of immediate gratification. When pounds aren’t shed and fat isn’t lost fast enough for us, we just assume it’s not working.

I could make a laundry list of the health benefits of walking regularly. There’s been study after study documenting them. But I won’t insult your intelligence. If you want to know the benefits of walking (or of any means of exercise), I’m absolutely sure you can do a Google search and find that information yourself. I prefer a personal approach. Walker Tracker is by no means a diet site. We’re not here to help you lose weight. We’re here to help you stay active. So this is not a before and after story. Consider this a few motivational anecdotes from the life of your friendly Walker Track tech support guy.

Shortly after I started working at Walker Tracker, I received a text message from a good friend back home in Kansas. She had finally gone out and bought new pants, pants that fit. You see, a few months prior to my exodus from Lawrence, KS to Portland, OR, she had had a blood pressure scare. Her doctor told her she needed to lower her blood pressure and lose weight otherwise her health would continue to decline. She isn’t even 30 years old yet.

So she started to make changes. They were small at first, very subtle things like eating a couple more salads a week, walking to work, and mowing her yard. I recall at first how frustrated she was. More exertion made her more exhausted than she was at first. Then things started to change. The first thing she noticed was that she wasn’t quite so tired. After about four weeks, I began to notice her clothes were fitting her differently. She never really documented how much weight she lost. All she cared about was how she was actually feeling better than she had in years. About three weeks after I had left Lawrence, she posted pictures online of all the work she’d done in the yard of her new house. There was one of her cutting tree limbs with a chainsaw. I couldn’t believe how great she looked. Since I’d left her arms had gained some muscle tone, and she was practically swimming in her clothes.

Her results were absolutely noticeable to me, but my jaw still dropped when she told me how many inches she had lost of her waist when she finally went out to get new jeans. She had lost four whole inches in a matter of months. And to think if she had given up after a couple of weeks because she wasn’t noticing any difference, she would be exactly where she was four months ago.

Another friend of mine in Lawrence recently posted a split photo of himself online. One half was him two months prior, the other was a current photo of him. I wouldn’t say he lost weight (he wasn’t really overweight to begin with). But the muscle tone in the pictures was completely different. He just looked healthier in the more recent one. I asked him what he was doing to bring about such great changes. Two months ago he finally decided that he didn’t want to feel awful all the time. Apparently he has a wheat allergy, but wasn’t taking any steps to cut it out of his diet. So he started eating gluten free, drinking two liters of water every day, and practicing yoga regularly. He was saying the same thing my other Lawrence friend said: “I just feel better. I wasn’t even concerned about looking better. That’s just a bonus!”

I was inspired by my friends’ progress, so I decided to challenge myself as well. I already do quite a bit of walking and cycling, so I had to find a new activity with which to push myself. I chose yoga. I’m in the midst of my fourth week practicing. I won’t lie. I was completely frustrated at first – I still am, actually. I thought I was in fairly good health, but yoga forced me to realize how completely inflexible my muscles are. I assumed yoga would be less intense than taking on something like weight lifting, but boy, was I wrong! I was sore every day for the first two weeks. And I felt like I wasn’t improving at all.

It’s only been in the last week that I’ve started to notice positive differences. My body doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. My balance is improving, and I’m a bit more flexible than I was when I started. But the biggest change is in my presence, in the way I carry myself. Just last week a friend of mine told me I looked bigger. I immediately took offense, assuming she meant I looked like I had gained weight. Then she clarified: it’s not that I looked physically bigger, but that I looked as though I was taking up more space. After she told me this, I started to pay attention to the way I carry myself. Sure enough, I stand straighter with my shoulders pulled back instead of hunched forward. When I’m sitting, I notice that my spine stays straight rather than curling forward into a slouch as it used to. My difference in posture doesn’t feel any different to me yet, but I’m sure with a few more weeks of regular practice, I’ll feel all these changes in my body.

I’m glad my friends started sharing their stories. They inspired me to physically challenge myself again, rather than remain complacent in my current level of physical fitness. Hearing how other people have gone about getting and staying healthy is far more beneficial than reading about the supposed benefits of exercise. It’s too easy to forget that change, any change, takes time. With a little patience (or maybe a lot!) and some subtle lifestyle changes, anyone can start to feel better. We just can’t give up when things get hard!

I’d like to invite you to share your stories with us. Comment here. Tell us what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, how you cope with frustration, etc. We want to hear about your trials, your failures, your successes. Maybe your story will inspire someone else to make more positive changes!

How important are good pedometers to your walking program?

I recently received this email:

My pedometer is HIGHLY inaccurate. Last night I walked for an hour covering about 3 miles and the pedometer recorded about 300 steps. I’ve tried positioning it different ways and it’s no good. I walked down the hall from my cube to the break room and counted 104 steps, one-way. With the pedometer on my belt it recorded less than 20 steps. With it in my pocket on the walk back it recorded 120.  This calls into question all the calculations for users of these pedometers in our Walking Challenge.

We’ve seen time and again that when walkers don’t have faith in the equipment that is, in part, meant to motivate them, the program won’t work as well. I’m well aware that running a walking program is a balance of costs and resources. But when making a pedometer-purchasing decision, it’s important to remember that not all pedometers are created equal.

The good news is, pedometers are one of the cheapest exercise tools you can buy. The high end of pedometers is around $30. The pedometer I have in my pocket (an Omron HJ-112) I’ve owned for four years and I bought it for around $20. Have a look at what our individual walking community says about their pedometers.

Omron HJ-112

Omron HJ-112

When you’re talking about a thousand pedometers, the difference between five dollars and twenty dollars is huge. With that in mind, here are a couple of ideas we’ve seen in order to help with the purchase of higher-quality pedometers.

  • Employee kick-in: Some of our programs have asked their employees to kick in $10 for their program which can offset the initial cost of a higher-quality pedometer significantly. And when they realize they’ll be getting a $15 – $20 pedometer for $10, the value proposition is easy for them as well.
  • Loaner Pedometers: One of our programs has purchased a bulk of loaner pedometers. They run shorter term walking competitions of about eight weeks each a couple of times a year, and for each competition they loan out the pedometers and collect them at the end of the competition. This might not work in all settings — however, your walkers will respect the equipment more, your pedometers will last longer and you won’t need to re-purchase them for each walking program you run (incidentally: We’ve seen that running series of shorter-term programs works incredibly well, which is why we’ve begun offering fully managed walking programs.)

In any case, spending the money to purchase a higher-quality pedometer will pay off in the end. You’ll have walkers more committed to the program, and will thus yield much better results. We’re trying to enable long-term lifestyle changes here at Walker Tracker, and you need a pedometer you can rely on for the long haul.

Want a short domain? for corporate walking programs

We have a new, nifty domain if you want a shorter, .org domain for your walking program.

Plus, I like that it ‘verbs’ what we do here:!

Check it out in our Custom Walking Program page.

Obama calls for corporate wellness programs

President Obama met with health related companies yesterday to, among other things, urge them to create and enable wellness programs at the corporate level.
A White House fact sheet said:

“As a result of many successful programs at businesses across the country, workers have become more engaged in their own health care, productivity is increasing, absenteeism is dropping, and employers are passing some of their health care savings to their workers,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

“Employers are discovering that improving quality of care can reduce health care costs. Small actions in the workplace can generate large benefits.”

Read the full article

We couldn’t agree more! We know some people who have a fantastic walking program program for corporate wellness.