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Give Workers Some Fun Walking Off Their Fat

The Walker Tracker system awards points for achievements; the client can determine how many points get awards (which can be anything from money, time off or the pedometer itself). Points are awarded for consistency and reaching goals, rather than simply steps achieved; points can also be earned for making an entry in the system, making daily journal entries or posting photos from a walk.

Convincing certain key participants to sign up can make a huge difference in whether a walking program sticks, Mays says: "Having buy-in and sponsorship from upper management is very important. We also want to help find the natural cheerleaders and give them the tools to motivate other people." Walker Tracker's "giveaway" points, for example, reward people for leaving encouraging comments on others' posts.

"The whole goal is to create a permanent lifestyle change," says Lisa Rousseau, vice president of member engagement for Walkingspree. "It's not one-size-fits all. You can't take a group of primarily overweight truck drivers and give them the same program as a group that has an on-site gym. We build the challenges and programs around the demographic of each organization."

Walkingspree's programs include additional wellness content, including an online food tracker so you can see how many steps it will take to burn off that pizza you had for lunch. The company also provides clients with USB, medical-grade pedometers, so participants can simply upload their walking stats. "It's very important to have validated data," Rousseau says.

Walkingspree clients have asked for competitions pitting department against department and branch office against branch office; the company even set up a challenge between two small-business clients looking for someone to compete against. Walking challenges can also be set up as a unified group mission, such as adding up everyone's steps to see how long it takes to "walk" across the Sahara or the United States.

"Some people are extremely competitive, while others want a more personal goal," says Rousseau, noting that participants can opt out of competitions and simply track their own individual progress. "We want to fit everybody's needs."

Whatever the motivation, competitions and goal-setting give employees something to work toward, a concrete reason to increase their daily step count. It may sound like a cliche, but in a walking program everyone who participates is a winner, health-wise.

"The goal is always to reach the at-risk employees," Mays says. "We always tell our clients: You're not trying to reward the marathon runners. It's the people who don't get off the couch who will benefit most."

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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