Elements of an Effective Wellness Challenge

Corporate wellness pays for itself many times over. If you’re reading this, we encourage you to study the many solutions that HR departments are using to make people healthier and happier.

This article addresses wellness challenges and why we think they are great. The truth is, over 80% of people know the changes they need to make to improve their health, but for personal, financial, emotional, or psychological reasons, they just aren’t ready to take the first step. Wellness challenges use fun, engaging tools to encourage that first step.

This “first step” approach is so inclusive and engaging that many folks are ready to move forward in their wellness journey. That’s why, when paired with a holistic wellness program, 

Wellness Challenges Emerge

Over 70% of surveyed participants in wellness challenges say that the challenge structure was “very effective” or “effective” at increasing physical activity levels. Pair that with the fact that short-term wellness programs create the same long-term ROI as year-round programs, and you’ve got a simple, measurable way to create a healthier workforce.


  • According to a thorough, comprehensive study of over 2500 individuals, the healthcare ROI on “continuous” participation in health programs versus “sporadic” participation was negligible ($.01; $1.58 vs $1.57; or .006 / .6%)

Wellness challenges offer ways for staff and members to team up around healthy activities like walking, healthy eating, smoking cessation, and alcohol moderation. A collaborative setup, a fun interactive leaderboard, and inclusive activities have proven to drive participation.

Generally, a wellness challenge incorporates teamwork, competition, and social support to encourage people toward healthier decisions.


Placing people into groups provides an opportunity to pool inputs, providing camaraderie amongst team members and anonymity for people concerned about participation data being publicly identifiable.

Note that the pooling and anonymity adds value only when combined with competition. Otherwise, participants fade into anonymity and the challenge loses it’s teeth. About competition…


Among the three elements, competition is proven to be the most effective way to encourage participation. Now, competition doesn’t need to be cutthroat, but it is very important for a challenge to compare the participation levels of the different teams. 

Also, a public leaderboard is among the most compelling non-monetary incentives for participation. So in all, we’re not interested in any shaming, but a healthy competition among teams with publicly available results is a surefire way to increase your participation.

Social Support

For a challenge to benefit everyone, everyone needs to know what it is and how to participate. It also must actually be inclusive of everyone, so social support is key.

Interestingly, social support, by itself, produces lower engagement than a control group with no incentives. But, when paired with teamwork & competition, social support completes a trifecta and improves participation.

Professional wellness challenges offer communication tools and are inclusive of all ability levels, device types & input methods, and more.

The last component of social support is incentives. For optimal participation, offer an incentive. It could be anything from financial benefits to priority parking spots or goofy swag. Whatever it is, ensure that participants know about the incentive and what is required to win!

Note: be careful, not all financial benefits are created equal, and some types of direct financial benefits toe the line with national regulations and many corporate HR policies!

Fitness as the goal 

Among corporate wellness, more HR teams trust that improving team’s health & fitness is a clear path to improved workplace happiness and performance.

While weight loss & fitness challenges are among the most common, we offer a word of caution on these. First, not all weight loss is healthy. Second, not everyone needs to lose weight, so it takes away from the teamwork and inclusivity elements. Third, not everyone can lose weight due to various health and diet issues.

Within “fitness” challenges, be inclusive of the whole organization. These aren’t meant to get your marathon runners to pool their miles competitively – it’s to foster a culture of healthy activity for everyone in the workplace. This includes sedentary roles, disabled people, and more. 

HR professionals must set the bar on activity that is universally healthy, accessible to all, and fun. We believe that step challenges are absolutely the best challenge type to improve team health and collaboration.

Challenge: Accepted

Challenges are a fun way to include everyone, remain compliant with HR regulations, and genuinely improve the health of the lifeblood of your organization. 

Running a challenge is a simple way to quantifiably engage your organization and delight participants and managers.

Walker Tracker’s Solution

Walker Tracker has a step challenge for every organization size. Our Turnkey solution checks all of the boxes and gets you out the door with a best-in-class challenge. We also have an Enterprise solution for larger teams with granular control over every element of the challenge. Enterprise also serves as a way to learn more about your staff while providing critical data that can actually inform on other elements on HR – it’s a truly complete package.


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