Personal Health Technology, Workforce Health | By | 01/14/19 | 3 Minute Read

New Year, New Wellness Program Ideas

As the new year rolls in, it’s time to take a close look at your workplace wellness program roster. Now is the perfect time to retire programs that haven’t met your goals or expectations. More importantly, a new year provides an opportunity to refresh your existing lineup with health education workshops, energizing classes, and fitness games that will help employees make healthy lifestyle changes in 2019. Here are three ideas to consider:

1. Conduct a Body Mass Index (BMI) workshop. According to the CDC and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, obesity levels have been steadily on the rise in the US since 1980. In 2000, the average woman was 5’3″ and weighed 163.8 pounds, and the average man was 5’7″ and weighed 189.4 pounds. While height hasn’t significantly changed in the last decade (if anything, we are slightly shrinking), the average woman now weighs 170.6 pounds and the average man weighs in at 197.9 pounds. That means the BMI of the average American is just shy of 30, which is technically considered obese.

A good starting point for goal-setting might be a workshop to help employees learn how to calculate their BMI and accurately measure their waist circumference. The workshop could focus on the importance of knowing BMI measurements and what they mean to a person’s overall health. You can reiterate that each employee could do self-measurements at home, and all personal information would be kept private.  

Measuring waist circumference helps screen for possible health risks that come from carrying too much weight. If most of a person’s fat is around the waist rather than the hips, they’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.

To help employees engage after the workshop, consider offering an outcome-based incentive for employees who lower their BMI 1 to 2 percent in six months. Incentives could include a wellness bonus, such as one day off for every percent they lower, or maybe a gift card to a local (healthy!) restaurant with a value of $10 for every BMI percent the employee reduces.

2. Start a boutique gym-of-the-month club. Nothing gets more monotonous for your employees than doing the same fitness routine, year after year. One way to add a dose of motivation is to experiment with different exercise. Boutique fitness gyms are starting to bulk up nationwide and attract new members, using modern training techniques, equipment, and technology that can take fitness to the next level. According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, fitness club memberships grew to 60.9 million nationwide last year, an increase of 10+ million since 2012.

Look into getting trial or discounted passes each month to a different local gym, allowing your employees to try all types of innovative fitness routines. Some popular options include boxing-inspired Rumble, high-intensity Barry’s Bootcamp, the (literally) super cool brrrn, fitness “experiences” at Equinox, heart rate and interval-focused Orange Theory, body alignment and sculpting at The Dailey Method, and rhythm-and-sweat based Soulcycle. Slower paced and more restorative options include underwater pedaling with Aqua Cycling, relaxation and decompression with laughter yoga, and balance and core work with standup paddleboard (SUP) yoga.

To ramp up excitement, consider hosting a group class for employees to do together, so they can compare their experience doing the new style of workout. To help with engagement over the long term,  offer an annual pass or discounted membership incentive to the boutique gym of choice to employees who try at least eight of your monthly options.

3. Gamify with Fitness Bingo. An estimated 63 percent of employer-sponsored wellness programs feature elements of gamification/competition. Everybody loves to get acknowledgment for their daily fitness accomplishments, no matter how small. If you can incentivize your fitness game with perks that don’t break the budget, you can reward more employees for positive lifestyle changes.

Simply put, games make activities more fun, and even simple rewards (think Fitbit badges and fireworks) provide motivation. For example, the Activity Flower has been a popular feature on the Fitbit Alta for years. While simple in design—the flower grows as activity levels increase—the icon provides instant reward and feedback. According to Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, this type of straightforward feedback taps into complex psychology that can change people’s behavior. (True confession: Earning treats for my virtual cat Inca who lives on my Fitbit Versa motivated me to bump up steps over the holidays).

To get your employees moving, design Fitness Bingo cards that include activity ideas in each square. The options can be anything from hiking 3-5 miles on their favorite trail, to ice skating for 30 minutes, to logging 15K steps in a day, to parking in the furthest row in the office parking lot every day for a week. The game can be self-paced and on the honor system, requiring minimal wellness team staffing.

Try program-based incentives, where everyone with a Bingo or blackout earns a small reward such as a new water bottle, a workout tank, or a sporty headband. Game on, 2019.  

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