Stairing Contest

A workplace fitness challenge can do some great things for your team or your company. Yes, it provides exercise and promotes health, but it does more than that, too.

Even though a fitness challenge may have a competitive element, the fun and camaraderie it inspires help foster teamwork and cooperation that can bring a workplace together.

Exercise-based wellness challenges can help participants feel their best. Exercise has been shown to boost mood and self-esteem—both of which can increase workplace productivity. And exercise is more inclusive than weight-loss challenges, which can be tricky because of all the factors (medications, gender, age, and genetics, to name a few) that contribute to inherent differences in how we all gain and lose weight.

Stairway to Heaven

If you’re ready to plan your own physical activity–oriented workplace wellness event, consider the staircase challenge. Employees will get plenty of exercise walking up the stairs, although more avid athletes may want to pick up the pace.

Recent research supports the notion that short, challenging bouts of exercise can be as (or even more) beneficial than longer, more leisurely activities. The study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that even three 60-second bouts of stair climbing per day increased people’s heart health.

If your office building has a staircase (or there are outdoor staircases nearby), this challenge may be right for your workplace.

Start at the Top

Designing a wellness challenge doesn’t have to be hard, but there are some aspects that are crucial to its success.

For any wellness program to get off the ground, the first thing to do is get buy-in. Start by checking in with managers and HR to make sure what you’re proposing is OK with them. Try to get them on the bandwagon—nothing boosts participation in a wellness challenge like knowing the boss is participating too. Management also has the biggest bullhorn, so having them on board can help get your message of participation out there.

Once you’ve gotten their blessing, start promoting the challenge and get buy-in from everyone else. Make sure you communicate the challenge well in advance so people have time to get themselves and their work pals signed up.

How to Plan a Staircase Challenge

As you’re planning your staircase challenge, you’ll have some decisions to make:

  • How will you keep track of participation? On a big poster where everyone can see? On a shared spreadsheet that you manage?
  • Will people compete by the number of staircases climbed? Or the number of days that a certain goal has been reached (such as 10 minutes of stair climbing)?
  • Will, you set up a time (like lunch hour) when everyone does their stair climbing together? Or will people do it on their own?
  • What about prizes? They should be substantial enough to give people an incentive, but for self-reported challenges, the prize shouldn’t be so lavish that people are tempted to fudge their results.

Don’t forget to emphasize inclusion. There may be a wide range of fitness levels in your workplace. Some ways to make a stair challenge fairer for people of different abilities is to have two or three categories to compete in (such as “Pro,” “Amateur,” “Beginner”). Judging by the number of days or number of staircases can also alter the playing field. Are there wheelchair users in your workplace? Don’t leave them out. Pedometers can be modified to record upper-body activity. The National Center for Health, Physical Activity, and Disability has a primer on this topic.

Another topic to promote in your wellness challenge materials is safety. These are helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Encourage participants to spend at least two minutes warming up before running the stairs.
  • Don’t let group sessions get out of hand.
  • Make sure participants are wearing appropriate footwear.

Plan a successful workplace wellness staircase challenge and reap the rewards: a happier, more productive workplace and the appreciation of coworkers whose lives have improved by climbing the staircase to health!

Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.

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