PIPs’ Walking Challenge Steps Up Fitness with Fun
Walking is good for you. Simple as that. It boosts endorphin levels — your brain’s natural pain relievers — gets your blood pumping, and can improve your mood. And here’s something more: if your school is implementing a PIPs for School (P4S) program, walking can help you pay for school and other essentials.
Students participating in P4S programs get special access to an action motivation and tracking platform called the PIPs Rewards™ App (PIPs App). The app offers students multiple “touch points” through which personal responsibility — whether it’s recycling, volunteering, and of course, walking — is recognized and rewarded with a “currency of good” called Positive Impact Points (PIPs) that can be converted into grants for school or redeemed for gift cards.
By connecting their PIPs App with either Apple Health or Google Fit, the step-tracking apps that are native to iOS and Android, students’ step counts are tracked and, when daily thresholds are met, rewarded.
Rewards are powerful motivators, as are games, and walking is the perfect action to spark some competition. For the last two Octobers, our P4S partner the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) has run a month-long “Walktober” walk-a-thon with the goal of encouraging their students to build healthy habits and think twice before taking that short drive to the store or around campus. Organized by the university’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Walktober 2021 engagement was impressive, with 266 UCCS students participating and walking an average of 94 miles.
Walktober participants credit the challenge with potentially lasting behavior change. As a physics major observed, “Having a goal set for each day made me feel more motivated, not just to walk, but to accomplish my other tasks for the day. …After a week or so of participating in the challenge, I found myself wanting to be more consistently active and even looking forward to walking around campus.”
Another student noted, “Walking and getting outside helps a lot with my mental health because I can take a break from thinking about school and also get fresh air!”
Walktober is a simple challenge that compares players’ steps. While a challenge like this can be effective, only the most active may be fully engaged. The latest release of the PIPs App features a long-awaited update of its own Fitness Challenge, embedded with a host of well-recognized behavioral strategies — including teams, leaderboards, weekly goals, recognition for improvement — and some less well-known, like loss aversion, that can drive up engagement among all players.
With studies suggesting that losses are psychologically twice as powerful as gains, loss aversion is a central behavioral element of the PIPs Fitness Challenge. At the beginning of each week, players receive an equal number of PIPs, but they risk losing them if they do not maintain certain weekly step minimums. Lost PIPs go into a pool for which the teams compete, and the winning team divvies up the pool. Bonus PIPs are also awarded at intervals throughout the game for top performers, including most improved. This allows others besides the most active players to be recognized for their contribution to their team’s score.
The PIPs Fitness Challenge has been tested with a variety of employee groups, from large law firms to middle-sized tech companies, and results have been quite impressive — particularly among participants who were the least active to start. In two case studies, the least active players improved their daily weekly steps between 33% and 40%; in another, 28% of all players improved daily physical activity by a median of 44%.
Players noted that they were motivated by the minimum threshold requirements and liked that they could earn bonus PIPs for improving, not just for being the best. This clearly affected their level of engagement. “As I am not the most active employee,” said one player, “I liked that I could earn bonus PIPs for improving.… I didn’t have to check the dashboard, but I found myself checking it a lot to see how I was doing and how my team was doing relative to others.” A majority of players also found being part of a team motivating; not wanting “to let their team down” was a common concern.
Program administrators could see the advantages of the PIPs Fitness Challenge as well. Combining smart tech with powerful behavioral drivers “got everyone engaged and active — more than previous fitness challenges we’ve played,” according to an HR administrator at one company.
“We don’t profess to have the solution to the problems of our sedentary lifestyle,” says Yaniv Eyny, an originator of the PIPs Rewards™ platform, “but if we can get someone’s mind off the hard work of habit change and into a game that values improvement, that’s something.”
By Mikayla Zeitlin, Communications & Marketing Manager, and Wendy Gordon, President and Founder
PIPs Rewards LLC
January 11, 2022