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. If he’s already added you as a friend, and you add a large step entry, he posts a comment, “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.