7 Best Work Fitness Challenges to Boost Employee Health and Productivity in 2023

April 6, 2023 Workhuman Editorial Team
Work Fitness Challenge Ideas

As organizations continue to recognize the importance of workplace wellbeing, workplace fitness challenges are gaining popularity as a way to promote healthy lifestyles among staff.

These challenges are designed to encourage employees to engage in physical activity and adopt healthier habits, such as taking breaks to stretch. The goal is to create a culture of wellness within the workplace, where employees feel supported and motivated to prioritize their health.

From step challenges to fitness classes, there are many different types of work-based fitness challenges that companies can implement to promote a healthier work environment.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of work fitness challenges and highlight some of the best challenges that companies can consider implementing.

What is an office fitness challenge?

An office fitness challenge is a program created to motivate staff members to get moving and develop healthier habits at work. Usually short-term activities, these challenges can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including step challenges, exercise courses, or a mix of other activities (more on this below).

Each company fitness competition aims to establish a wellness culture in the workplace where staff members are urged to put their health and wellbeing first. Employees can enhance their physical wellbeing, lower stress, boost productivity, and develop a sense of camaraderie with their coworkers by taking part in these activities.

How to implement a workplace fitness challenge

How to implement a workplace fitness challenge

Fitness challenges are fun, simple ways of motivating your workers that can be adjusted to different fitness levels and hobbies, as well as to the specific goals of the organization.

But, creating and implementing a fitness challenge is often a challenge in itself. This is true whether your HR department or an outside wellness company is leading the charge.  So, to make sure you get off on the right foot, here are some steps you can take to create a successful corporate fitness challenge:

1. Survey your staff

The first step of the process is assessing the overall wellbeing of your workers. The easiest way to accomplish this would be through a questionnaire or wellness survey that can gauge the physical and mental health of your staff.

In that survey, ask your staff what type of activities they like. There’s no point in creating an event that no one wants to be a part of. If not through a survey, another great way to understand their interests is by circulating suggestions.

Write up a list of all the events that you’re willing to implement and hand them out to your employees and see which events top the list.

2. Form a wellness committee

HR can form a committee made up of employees from different departments to help plan and execute the challenge. The committee can work together to develop the challenge goals, activities, and incentives.

3. Define your goals and objectives

Determine the specific goals and objectives of your fitness challenge. Is the aim to increase employee activity levels, improve overall health, or promote team building?

Understanding the purpose of the challenge will help you tailor the activities and messaging to suit your objectives.

4. Choose the type of challenge

Decide on the type of fitness challenge that best suits your company culture and employee interests. Examples include step challenges, fitness classes, or a combination of different activities.

5. Set a timeline and schedule

Determine the duration of the challenge, and schedule the activities and events. Consider factors such as workload, vacation schedules, and other potential conflicts to ensure maximum participation.

6. Develop rules and guidelines

Establish clear rules and guidelines for the challenge, including how to track progress, how to participate, and any prizes or incentives for participants.

7. Make it easy to join but don’t force it

The key to organizing a successful wellness challenge is to make it easy for everyone to join in.

While not all employees will be able to or want to participate, they should still have the opportunity to take part.

However, you don’t want to force employees to participate in the office fitness challenge. As the BBC pointed out, forced fun isn’t fun.

They note that when staff are obligated to participate it can come off as a “corporate cult,” “where it’s almost indoctrination. You end up with fake smiles. ‘Oh yeah, of course, it’s great here, I just love these activities.’ It’s a culture of harmony with a lot of disharmony just below the surface.”

8. Promote the challenge

Create marketing materials and promote the challenge to employees. That includes sending multiple emails with all the necessary information. For in-office challenges, you can take it a step further by posting it on office bulletin boards.

You should also encourage participation by highlighting the benefits of participating in their overall health and wellness.

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9. Monitor progress and adjust as needed

Track participation and progress throughout the challenge, and adjust as needed to ensure maximum engagement and participation. One easy thing you can do is create a sign-up sheet to keep track of all the participants.

You could also create a separate Slack channel dedicated to the fitness challenge (see pg. 6 of the PDF), similar to what Rise People did for their work fitness challenge.

In their Slack channel, they monitored progress by having employees snap photos of themselves working out and post them to the Slack channel in order to earn points.

10. Offer incentives/celebrate success

Incentives for company wellness challenges

Leading a healthy lifestyle is an amazing benefit of joining a fitness challenge. However, sometimes employees will need another reason to take part in the event.

That’s where incentive programs come into play. Consider offering prizes or incentives for those who completed the challenge or achieved the most progress.

These prizes can come in a few different forms. The most common is an appreciation gift. Many companies give out certificates or special shoutouts to all players.

Another option some businesses rely on are financial incentives. Things like gift certificates or cash prizes to the winners work really well.

No matter what though, you should always celebrate the end of the challenge with a closing event, and recognize those who participated and achieved their goals.

Example office fitness challenges

In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the activities you can use for an office fitness challenge. If you want some real world examples of office fitness challenges, you can check out Rise People’s challenge, Sprout at Work’s challenge, and Texas.gov’s wellness challenge.

Here are some of the more tried and true office fitness challenge ideas:

1. Take the stairs challenge

  • Time commitment: 1 week
  • Cost: N/A
  • Planning effort level: Low
  • Effort level for employees: Medium
  • Type of participation: Individual

If this is your first time executing a workplace wellness challenge, then try kicking off with a stair climbing challenge.

The premise of the activity is simple: Instead of riding the elevator up to your desk, you take the stairs. This may seem like a small change, but it’ll have a dramatic effect on office wellness.

First off, starting your day with a flight of steps will improve circulation and warm up your muscles. This can energize your workers and help them increase productivity.

Besides that, the activity is an excellent stress reliever. That way, everyone will walk into the office with fresh eyes, ready to take on the tasks of the day.

Plus, climbing stairs can increase the amount of good cholesterol in the blood. This should reduce the risk of heart disease in the office.

Finally, organizing the event should be a breeze. Since you don’t need any special equipment, the setup is manageable, with almost no cost.

2. Healthy eating challenge

Healthy meals Challenge to improve health and employee morale
  • Time commitment: 2 weeks
  • Cost: Medium
  • Planning effort level: Medium
  • Effort level for employees: Medium
  • Type of participation: Individual

Most of us know that having healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to enhance fitness. This can be a bit tricky to maintain while working in an office.

Unless you pack your own lunch, finding healthy food options isn’t always easy.

Start by reaching out to your vending machine operator or cafeteria manager. Talk to them about including healthy snack alternatives on their menu.

You can even ask them to offer a discount on fruits and vegetables.

Then, encourage employees to discuss their experiences. For instance, they can share healthy recipes.

This can create a sense of camaraderie in the office, and help everyone stay on track with their food choices.

3. Walkathon steps challenge

  • Time commitment: 1 week
  • Cost: High
  • Planning effort level: Medium
  • Effort level for employees: High
  • Type of participation: Individual

Walkathons are one of the most popular choices for corporate fitness challenges. That’s because almost anyone can participate.

This low-intensity exercise is suitable for all ages and has several advantages when it comes to healthy behaviors.

To kick off the contest, you’ll need to decide on the walking challenge distance. For the activity to be effective, your employees should walk between two and three miles a day.

That translates to about 5,000 to 7,000 steps.

The only downside to a walkathon is that all participants need fitness goal trackers. These are devices that can calculate the number of steps you walk automatically.

While the initial cost of the gadget may be high, they’re worth the investment. After a week of regular strolls, your staff should exhibit an increase in efficiency.

4. Meditation challenge

Meditation Challenge
  • Time commitment: 2 weeks
  • Cost: Low
  • Planning effort level: Low
  • Effort level for employees: Low
  • Type of participation: Group

The office can be an incredibly stressful environment. This is especially true when you’re worried about deadlines.

It can be tough to calm your nerves and focus on the task at hand.

An amazing way of improving employee fitness and mental health is with meditation. The mindfulness exercise can help workers let go of intrusive thoughts.

This should improve their energy and fitness levels and create a sense of ease in the office.

On top of that, there’s almost no setup involved. All you have to do is assign 15 to 20 minutes a day for the activity.

For the best results, it’s a good idea to meditate at the start of the working day. Although, lunchtime contemplation can also do the trick.

While we all know about the advantages of the practice, many of us struggle with the activity. So, you may need to hire a meditation coach to walk your employees through the process.

5. Fun run work fitness challenge

  • Time commitment: 1 week
  • Cost: Low
  • Planning effort level: Low
  • Effort level for employees: Medium
  • Type of participation: Group

Being cooped up in the office all week can be a significant cause of demotivation. Luckily, a fun run should be able to resolve this issue.

Nothing boosts morale like spending a day in the sun having a laugh with your coworkers.

There are two main parts to this event. The first is the training portion, which takes up the majority of the week.

To start, your employees will spend four days preparing for the run. That includes stretching regularly and working on improving stamina.

Then, by the last day of the week, the race can commence. All you have to do is use a few plastic cones to set the track for the event.

In addition, the best part about fun runs is that you can use them as fundraisers.

6. Morning stretches challenge

Morning Stretches are great workplace fitness challenge ideas to create healthy habits
  • Time commitment: 1 week
  • Cost: N/A
  • Planning effort level: Low
  • Effort level for employees: Medium
  • Type of participation: Group

Being productive in the early morning can be tough for many people. It’ll take a little while for your employees to wake up, settle in, and get into the work groove.

Thankfully, this challenge is a great way to eliminate this unfruitful period. Implementing morning stretches or yoga can do wonders for the workflow cycle.

Encourage your employees to exercise as a group for the first 15 minutes of the workday. That’ll energize your staff and sharpen their focus.

This quick physical activity in the morning will help optimize brain function and improve focus at work.

To keep all participants engaged, you can alternate training captains. Every day a new person will be in charge of leading the workout challenge.

That way, you can all learn from each other’s experiences.

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Wrapping up

Workplace fitness challenges have become increasingly popular as organizations recognize the importance of employee wellbeing. By promoting healthy lifestyles among staff, companies can create a culture of wellness that encourages employees to prioritize their health.

While challenges come in many different shapes and sizes and can include activities such as step challenges, fitness classes, and healthy eating competitions, the goal remains the same.

Improve employee wellbeing.

Implementing even one of these challenges can result in a more productive workforce, reduced absenteeism, and improved employee morale. There truly are a wealth of benefits when it comes to work fitness challenges.

By investing in the health and wellbeing of your employees, you can create a positive workplace culture that benefits both the company and your employees.