13 Office Fitness Challenges To Foster An Active Culture

There are several great reasons to implement workplace fitness programs at your organization. It’s a great benefit for your employees, providing them with the tools and opportunities to pursue healthier lifestyles in an environment that is motivating, supportive, and fun. 

As an office manager, you have the power to make it possible! In fact, the central part of your role is to stimulate constructive change and maintain a supportive environment. 

With that, there are plenty of different ways you can motivate employees to improve their fitness. Depending on budget, these could include an onsite gym, personal training sessions, exercise classes, fitness coaching, and subsidized gym membership.

However, while all of these initiatives can motivate employees to improve their fitness, they might not always have as broad a reach as desired. Thankfully there are ways to reach out to employees who do not see themselves as gym people

You can offer something simple that everyone can do that will become habit-forming. It could be as simple as a healthy dose of competition that can encourage more activity while being at work–or workplace fitness challenges!

What Are Workplace Fitness Challenges and What Are Their Benefits? 

Workplace fitness challenges are short-term behavior change contests, interventions, and team activities designed to improve health and employee morale. These are simple ways to encourage employees to have healthy behaviors. Challenges can be completed in teams or as individuals, and they can target an unlimited number of health behaviors.

Fitness challenges are a great way to encourage healthy living among employees. The idea is to gamify health challenges and incentivize team members to stick to their health and wellness goals. Challenges can take many forms depending on which area of health your team members are most committed to improving. 

It’s important because our modern lives have been engineered so that we can spend most of it sitting down. Unfortunately, sitting is literally killing us. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.2 million deaths can be attributed to a lack of physical activity. 

Our sedentary lifestyles are responsible for increasing our risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as a loss of muscle and bone strength. Perhaps even more alarming is that people who exercise regularly are probably still not getting enough movement in their lives to counteract the deleterious effects of sitting too much. 

With that, fitness challenges can be a great way to get your employees excited about wellness.  If it’s done right, an office fitness challenge can be the cornerstone of a comprehensive wellness program. Improving employees’ fitness can have significant benefits for organizations, including increasing productivity, driving down employee benefits costs and boosting wellbeing. Having a good understanding of the workforce is the key to maximizing these benefits.

Unsurprisingly, this also translates into significant benefits for the organization– A fitness campaign can create a really good buzz in the workplace, driving up employee engagement. This can lead to reductions in sickness absence, as well as improvements in productivity and retention rates.

How To Make Your Workplace Fitness Challenge Ideas Successful?

With these tips in mind, there are several ways to jump right into a fitness challenge with your employees. Consider these ideas as inspiration to create a challenge that motivates your team and to actually get them moving.

Accessibility

Workplace fitness challenges should be welcoming to all employees, regardless of fitness levels or physical abilities. The goal is to encourage maximum engagement, especially among the least healthy members of your workforce. So make sure that your programs are designed in a way that no one feels left out.

Setting Personal Goals

Challenges can be made more accessible by measuring program achievements based on your employees’ personal goals. It all starts with knowing what they would like to achieve and then finding activities that the majority of your team already enjoy, or are interested in trying out.

Friendly Competition / Teamwork

While the competitive nature of workplace fitness challenges can be a motivator for employees to participate, the competition should be of a friendly nature, in an environment free of criticism, blame or feelings of failure. Creating team-based challenges can help employees to support and gently push each other to reach their personal goals, while simultaneously creating collaborative bonds that will extend into the workplace.

Convenience

Many full-time employees are hesitant to get involved in their company’s fitness challenges because they are busy. You can help combat this by giving employees the opportunity to get healthy at work. Offer employees the ability and time to participate throughout the workday. For example, if you want them to participate in a yoga class, allow employees to exercise for 1 hour of paid time. Otherwise, your busy employees wouldn’t be interested at all.

Encouragement

Instead of just sporadically mentioning the availability of a fitness program, why not actively promote a culture of well-being and health through encouragement?

To encourage as much participation as possible, you must also participate. Employees won’t listen to managers who don’t participate in fitness initiatives themselves. You should participate in any group fitness activities but not necessarily to join the challenges– you just have to show that you are with them in this journey. Otherwise, why should your employees participate in fitness activities if their manager isn’t?

Incentives / Prizes

The use of incentives is a great way to maximize participation in any workplace fitness challenge. Incentives can come in many forms– from simple recognition of winners and participants such as certificates, name listed in a company newsletter, or social media posts; to financial incentives such as cash or gift cards. Remember: the better the incentives, the more likely participation rates will increase.

Now that you have the fundamental idea of what this is about, here are 13 different fitness challenge ideas that could get your team moving. Choose the one or more that best fits your team’s culture:

1. Start A New Healthy Hobby Challenge

This is a great opportunity for your employees to find a new hobby. According to Psychology Today, having a hobby reduces stress, fosters social connection, and makes you more efficient at managing your time. So even if your fitness challenge isn’t about diet and exercise, encouraging employees to cultivate new hobbies could have just as much of a positive effect on their wellness.

Ask employees to challenge themselves to start that hobby they’ve always thought about, like picking up an instrument, outdoor photography, hiking or taking an art class. 

You can incentivize them by helping to subsidize the cost, or connecting them with other people who work in your organization who might have a similar hobby and getting them to challenge each other.

2. Walking Challenge

As mentioned above, sitting all day can be bad, so it’s vital that your employees take every opportunity to get on their feet. The lunch hour is a perfect opportunity for them to take a breather.  Recent research from Curtin University, Australia showed that workplace stress can be greatly alleviated by a simple lunchtime saunter.

You can even promote the 10,000 steps a day challenge – set up a chart for staff to log their daily amount. Incentivize this with an end-of-month prize! To boost the uptake of the challenge, you could provide your staff with fitness tracker/ watches to monitor their steps. While staff perks and incentives may seem costly in the short-term, they can drastically bolster staff happiness and morale in the long-run.

3. Take The Stairs Challenge

There are a lot of options to help your employees exercise a little more. Challenge employees to take the stairs as much as they can throughout the workweek.  Decorate the company stairs with motivational and colorful posters to encourage taking the stairs. With some small lifestyle changes such as this, your employees can make huge health improvements in the long run. All it takes is a little encouragement. 

Imagine if, every day, your employees took the stairs to the office instead of the elevator. This should keep your business’ sick day payments down to a minimum – because, according to research from the University of Oxford, those with sedentary lifestyles showed a lower mortality risk of 46% after increasing their daily steps from 1,000 to 10,000.

4. Work Out Challenge

Exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. But with busy schedules and balancing family needs with hobbies and work, it can be hard to find time to hit the gym. Make sure you give employees the time they need to exercise, even if that means offering a more flexible schedule. You can also offer subsidized fitness passes or invite personal trainers and coaches to the office to create workouts for employees.

Ask your employees to create their own personal goals related to cardiovascular health, flexibility, strength training, or overall wellness. Inviting them to choose their own goals can create a sense of ownership. Moreover, make it a “buddy system”– link up those team members with similar personal goals, and invite them to challenge and support each other every step of the way.

5. “Biggest Loser” Contest

Weight loss is a common goal for Americans. In fact, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 49 percent of American adults are trying to lose weight. 

To help your employees achieve that, research shows that organized weight loss groups have a higher rate of success than individuals when attempting to lose weight. Challenges provide a fun, motivating atmosphere. 

Weight loss challenges can span eight weeks to a few months, and typically include regular weigh-ins as well as support throughout, such as nutrition education. Winners can be determined by variables like total pounds lost, or percent of body weight or body fat loss. If you’re interested in running your own “Biggest Loser” contest at work, here’s an in-depth guide.

6. Daily Meditation Challenge

Mental wellness is an important part of an employee’s overall health, and meditation is a great way to foster brain and body health. To achieve this, you can offer in-office meditation classes, quiet rooms, or yoga.

According to research from the Harvard Medical School, there are a whole host of benefits to practicing yoga. These include healthier and uninterrupted sleep, improved blood circulation, a boost in energy levels and enhanced mental wellbeing. As well as physical flexibility, yoga can vastly improve your state of mind.

So try challenging employees to incorporate meditation into their healthy lifestyle by offering lunchtime yoga classes. There are also a variety of meditation apps that can help team members get started in their own free time.

7. Exercise For A Cause

You can get your employees to represent the company for several charity events – be it sponsored walks, marathons, or even a fun run. 

The whole workforce can take part and make it a real joint effort, getting some quality team-time in as well as some exercise too. Aside from the clear physical benefits, staff charity events are great opportunities for your team to get to know one another. 

They can motivate each other during a particularly grueling hill climb or provide some healthy competition in the marathon. It’s quality time spent with your team, so there are benefits to be had all-round. Your staff could even take part in a charity that is really close and significant to them.

8. Intramural Sports Activities

Soccer, table tennis, badminton, swimming— indoor and outdoor activity options are endless! Why not make it a friendly competition where winners can get incentives and prizes?

By putting some time and effort into intramural sports, your team will be healthier, happier, and more energetic. They’ll also be more alert, more energetic and, ultimately, more efficient.

In addition, your fitness challenge could also be to encourage employees to create sports teams or join existing ones. Your business could even sponsor the teams by getting them jerseys with your logo on them. Sports are not only a fantastic way to get exercise, but they are also a great opportunity for cross-departmental communication and relationship-building.

9. Bike to Work Challenge

You’ll be killing two birds with one stone here. By providing bike storage on your premises, employees will benefit from cycling to work rather than taking the car. It’s cheaper, healthier and it’s better for the environment! With vehicle emissions lowered, cycling to work offers some quality, unavoidable exercise. 

You can’t go wrong with this challenge. The early blasts of fresh air will be great for your staff, and nobody likes being stuck in traffic jams, so cycling to work is ideal. Also, recent studies by the University of Cambridge show that the benefits of cycling and walking largely outweigh the risks posed by greater exposure to air pollution – perfect for offices in bustling, metropolitan areas with high levels of city smog.

So challenge employees to bike to work as often as they can. The employee who bikes to work the most throughout every month wins!

10. Get Outside Challenge

In the fresh air, staff can walk their lunch off and chat with colleagues, or take some much-needed alone time away from the bustling workspace. Depending on where your office is based, you can take in the surrounding sites. Encourage your employees to take an afternoon stroll in a park nearby or run some errands during their break time.

Spending time outdoors relieves stress and boosts mental wellbeing. By stepping outside of the office space, they’re actively taking steps to engender a fresh state of mind. They’ll return to work invigorated and ready to smash through your workload. Challenge employees to spend at least 15 minutes outside every day to get some fresh air, sunlight, or to rediscover nature!

11. Dance Til You Drop Challenge

Let’s accept the fact that if exercising were fun and easy, most of us would be doing it. However, most employees in today’s workplaces are stuck in marathon meeting after meeting, have poor dietary habits, and rarely exercise.

That’s why you must provide an exercise schedule that fits comfortably into a person’s daily routine. If your employees are having a hard time to incorporate exercise in their workweek, you can conduct an onsite weekly dance session such as Zumba, Barre, or dance boot camp. You can hire an instructor that can make the session fun, lively, and adaptable for movers of all levels.​

Challenge your employees to participate in this onsite weekly session and reward the ones who participate. You can also do it by forming a group and making it a weekly competition where winners can get company prizes. Whatever it is, this challenge promotes a healthy workforce where they can dance their stress away.

12. Healthy Holiday Challenge

In the United States, holidays in November and December are often the time when healthy habits suffer. As we make our way through the holidays, encourage your employees to participate in fitness activities such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, and others. 

As an office manager, you can also run a challenge around physical activity to help keep people motivated through this season! Alternatively, send them weekly emails with healthy recipes, tips for staying active, and weekly mini-challenges to keep them motivated all season long. And of course, all of this is for their chance to win exciting holiday gifts!

13. Drink More Water Challenge

We all know drinking enough water or proper hydration is extremely important. In fact, research from the University of Connecticut showed that even mild dehydration can adversely affect mood and how our mind and body perform. 

The problem is that we are dehydrated well before thirst begins to set in, meaning that we should stay well-watered throughout the day if we’re to maintain a consistently high level of productivity. However, sometimes it’s hard to make a habit of hydration even if there’s free water. In fact, many still neglect it and end up flagging later in the day.

As an office manager, you can help your team members by making sure access to water is available throughout your office and hosting a water-drinking challenge. Invite employees to track how much water they drink in a day, and reward those who meet or exceed the recommended intake 8 glasses of water a day.

Summary

As an office manager, you have the opportunities and resources to serve as a healthy role model for your team members. By giving employees exciting chances to keep their health and well-being a top priority through fitness challenges, employees will be much more likely to adopt healthy behaviors at the workplace. 

With some simple steps and a little encouragement, you can easily promote an hour of daily exercise for staff. After all, it’s in the business’ best interests to ensure that all employees are fit and healthy. When employees are healthy, not only do they feel better, but they’re also more productive and more likely to take fewer sick days. A healthy workforce leads to a healthy business!

On top of everything else, showing employees that you care about their fitness levels is a great way to boost morale. It demonstrates to your employees and colleagues that their health and wellbeing is important to the company they work for – the positive benefits of which can hardly be understated.

So there you have it… We hope these ideas help you brainstorm new ways to engage your employees in being more active at work. With these fitness challenges, you’ll be one step closer to creating a healthy and productive office culture that is the envy of workers everywhere!


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