Ideas for an office fitness challenge

Ideas for an office fitness challenge

We sit down a lot in our lifetime. From the time we enter school until we retire from our careers, the majority of weekday time is spent sitting down. We sit in the car or on the train commuting. We sit at our desks. We sit in meetings. We sit and watch TV or movies at the cinema. We sit while we eat. The list can go on and on. And, let’s face it, we don't always find the time or motivation to go to the gym, walk, cycle or get more active in general.

A study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine ¹ found that adults who sat down for more than 11 hours a day had a 40% increased risk of dying within three years, from any cause, in comparison with those who sat for less than 4 hours a day. Furthermore, the chances of dying were 15% higher for those who sat between 8 to 11 hours a day in comparison to those who sat less than 4 hours a day (Glatter, 2013).

Some competitive spirit between co-workers and colleagues can help put a stop to sitting down for prolonged periods at work. We've come up with a list of office fitness challenges that you and your colleagues can put in place:

1. Walking Challenge

Walking is one of the most convenient and affordable forms of physical activity. Here are some ways to implement a walking challenge: participants could win a prize or small bonus for walking a number of steps a day for a set period or could receive a tombola entry for every 5,000-10,000 steps walked over a set period of time. You could also choose a walker of the month or of the year for a big prize.

2. Stair Climb Challenge

There are also health organisations that can help you set up a work challenge. For example, the British Heart Foundation events offer a range of activities including running, cycling, trekking and swimming.

They have also set up a challenge for the workplace called the Stair Climb Challenge; as the name suggests, the aim is to take the steps as many times as possible. Find out more details about the challenge here, including downloadable record sheets to help employees track their progress and their success. The challenge can take place over 4, 8 or 12 weeks. Once your Stair Climb Challenge is complete, celebrate by having a climbing themed event with indoor rock climbing or organise a lunchtime walk to carry on the good work and effort.

3. Life Style Challenge

This challenge works well over shorter periods, between 2 to 4 weeks. The idea is to come up with a different healthy daily routine that participants must do each day. Habits can be anything from packing a healthy lunch or eating five a day to taking a daily walk. Each behaviour earns a raffle entry, with draws at the end of each week. You can have breaks in between and then re-start the challenge.

4. Team Challenges for Charity

Team challenges can be seen as a team-building activity and can create a sense of community and collaboration, motivating people to a common purpose. Team-building activities are a way to increase team skills and communication, improve morale and productivity, and stay active at the same time.

The participants work toward the group goals, such as “walk 5,000 miles” or “3 peak challenge”, and keep track of group results on a whiteboard, usually displayed in a common area.

5. Participation Challenge

This challenge encourages participants to accomplish a task a certain number of times over a set period and reward those who reach a specific number.

For example, if an employer provides a gym membership (or has a fitness centre on site) they can challenge their employees to attend the gym 15 times in 30 days. Employers can also challenge employees to do other things like bring their healthy lunch 15 times per month or to walk 1 mile a day.

6. Weight Loss Challenge

When you're trying to lose weight and you need to dodge the breakroom doughnut tray, your office mate's biscuits or the vending machine make sticking to the diet a lot harder. So why not ask your work colleagues to join you? This might get rid of some of those temptations.

A study published in 2012 by Obesity ² found that people who are supported and inspired, such as work colleagues, have a better chance of losing weight. From the 3000 individuals who took place in the study, those with group support had a 6% to 20% better chance of achieving a 5% weight loss (Cespedes, 2017 ).

Set up an office weight-loss challenge to create healthy competition and camaraderie while perhaps also discouraging people from bringing in treats. Then everyone benefits from getting healthy! The challenge can be a total number of pounds lost or percent of body weight or body fat loss. Employers can also offer an incentive for the whole group, such as weekly fitness classes at the office or a free healthy lunch, as a reward for the efforts.

All of the above challenges will help staff increase their activity levels, improving their mental and physical wellbeing, and making the workplace a happier and more productive environment. So why not choose one of the above challenges and suggest it to your co-workers today? Good luck!


  1. Glatter, R. (2013) "Why Sitting Increases Your Risk of Dying Sooner" Forbes [online] accessed from: [accessed October 2017]
  2. Cespedes, A. (2017) "How to Create an Office Weight Loss Challenge" Live Strong [online] accessed from: [accessed October 2017]

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