tips & tricks

Building an inclusive step challenge

blog author
Mar 20, 2019

Every participant is different. Inclusive step challenges allow everyone to join in on the fun!

Company step challenges should be accessible and inclusive to all participants, regardless of their abilities or fitness levels. Fitness is a range. Some of your employees might love to run, go to the gym, or may even be training for their first marathon. Others in your company might not be engaging in physical activities very much, or at all.

Many people go from the couch to their car to their desk, with little activity in between. Some people might also struggle to fit workouts into their busy day-to-day lives. Instead of running five days a week, they might be focused on incorporating smaller health improvements, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or spending 10 minutes of their lunch break walking.

Others may prefer non-stepping forms of exercise, such as swimming or cycling. Those with physical limitations might also prefer or require non-stepping exercises in order to participate.

It’s important to not leave anyone on the sidelines. As a challenge admin, it’s important to create an inclusive step challenge that can accommodate a wide range of fitness levels, interests, and abilities.

So how do you create an inclusive step challenge that is achievable and enjoyable for everyone?

Here are 5 ways you can use the MoveSpring app to build an inclusive step or activity-based challenge:

1. Create a personalized goal step challenge, so participants can choose their own goal.

One way to build an inclusive step challenge is to allow participants to personalize their goal. MoveSpring offers a personalized goal option for Streak, Stick to It, and Target that allows individual participants to set their own challenge goals. As a challenge admin, you can set up a goal range during challenge creation and participants will set their goal within this range.

This feature allows for you to choose a minimum and maximum-effort option for your challenges to accommodate a variety of fitness levels. From the range provided, your employees can choose a realistic goal that works best for them. If a user hasn’t selected a goal 7 days into joining the challenge, the goal will be set to the minimum of the range.

If this is your first challenge and you’re not sure of your employees’ beginning fitness levels, we’d suggest surveying your employees to determine an appropriate range. Employees can choose a goal that works for them within the range you’ve provided.

Identify your users’ activity distribution and choose a goal range

If you’re using MoveSpring as your step challenge platform, you can use the admin dashboard to help you choose a fair range to accommodate all participants. The Activity Distribution and Step Range graphs visually display where users fall according to their daily step, distance, or minutes average.

view of user activity charts in admin center

Get a more detailed rundown of your users’ activity range by pulling a User Report from the Admin Center. This will show you each participant’s daily average on an individual level, rather than a visual, aggregated graph. Identify your goal range by taking into account all of your participants activity averages.

Let’s say you have employees who consistently reach anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 steps a day. With these stats in mind, you could set a goal range of 5,000 to 15,000 steps. This way, everyone can choose a goal that will be challenging yet realistic based on their current fitness levels. For more guidance to setting goals, click here.

Suggested goal ranges by challenge mode in MoveSpring

If you don’t have previous user data to reference, here are our suggested goal ranges by challenge mode:

table showing goal range recommendations

If you’re running a manual step challenge outside of a platform like MoveSpring, these goal ranges shared above should still apply to your group as well.

person running on pavement

2. Create three of the same challenge, all with different goals—one for each activity level.

For challenges modes like Virtual Race or Leaderboard, another option is to set up multiple challenges with different goals to accommodate varying activity levels. Please note that there are a few considerations to be aware of when using this set up. With multiple challenges, users will only be able to see the challenge they are in, and each chat thread will be limited to participants in each challenge. It may also be possible for a user to join more than one challenge.


For a Leaderboard challenge, you can create three separate challenges highlighting three activity brackets, such as 3-5K steps/day, 5-8K steps/day, and 8-10K+ steps/day. Participants can then join the activity bracket that matches their current fitness level.

Once you have your challenges set up, ask users to choose the challenge that best matches their activity level so they can compete against others in a similar activity bracket. Users can assess their average activity by looking at the Activity Insights in their profile. With a bracketed set up, everyone can participate in the same type of challenge, while also having a good chance of succeeding with fair competition and an achievable goal.

Virtual Race

If you plan to run a Virtual Race, you can follow this same process by creating 3 separate challenges to accommodate groups of varying activity levels. One challenge can accommodate high-activity participants, another can accommodate moderate-activity participants, and a third challenge can accommodate lower activity ranges.

To set this up, you’ll need to identify three general ranges that represent high, medium, and low activity. We recommend looking at the daily average distance metric for this exercise. Your specific ranges may vary, but might look something like this:

  • High: All users who average 5+ miles per day
  • Medium: All users who average 3–5 miles per day
  • Low: All users who average below 3 miles per day

Calculate your Virtual Race goal by multiplying these daily averages by the number of days in your challenge. Then, create three challenges to represent your high, medium, and low activity groups.

3. Allow conversion of activities, so everyone can participate in your step challenge regardless of their preferred activities or abilities.

Another option to build a more inclusive step challenge is through activity conversion. To account for non-stepping activities in a step challenge, you can enable the MoveSpring activity converter so all activities can be counted toward a user’s step count.

Activity conversion is based on the effort someone exerts performing a given activity. Allowing for converted activities gives everyone a fair shot at competing in your challenge regardless of their preferred activities or abilities.

For example, let’s say an employee swims for 30 minutes each day, and they are working toward a step goal of 5,000 steps per day. Using the activity converter, they can convert each minute of freestyle swimming into steps at a rate of 181 steps per minute to get 5,430 steps. The equivalent step count for 30 minutes of swimming enables this participant to reach their step goal in a more inclusive way.

person in wheelchair and person with walking cane crossing street

Activity conversion can also be an important accommodation for participants with disabilities. If a participant is in a wheelchair, they can convert their minutes moved at 101 steps per minute* so they can join in on the competition as well.

As a note, we encourage using an activity cap if you have the activity converter enabled for your challenges. We generally see higher totals for challenge participants when the activity converter is enabled, so keep activity capped to allow for fair competition between challenge participants.

4. Set up an activity challenge scored on active minutes to accommodate all activities.

To build an inclusive challenge that can be based on any activity, try setting up a challenge that scores participants on active minutes. This allows your employees to count active time toward your challenge, regardless of the activity performed.

Step challenges often require all of your employees to perform the same basic exercise (e.g. walking or running) to get credit for your challenge. Challenges based on active minutes allow employees to exercise however is best for them.

This option is similar to allowing the conversion of activities into steps, except you’ll base your scores on active minutes instead. If your group prefers a step challenge instead, converting activities can be a great solution to still allow everyone to join in on the fun.

Basing your challenge on active minutes, on the other hand, means your participants will need to focus more on their active time. Each device tracks active minutes slightly differently, but typically that can mean an increased heart rate or faster movement. A challenge based on active minutes could also be a better fit for a group that performs more non-stepping activities, like cycling and swimming.

Pro Tip: In MoveSpring, if you choose to base your challenge on active minutes, we suggest enabling manual entry. This will allow participants to manually enter active minutes. Participants using an iPhone as their device (instead of a wearable device) will not be able to sync active minutes automatically. The Apple Health app does not track active minutes on its own. Learn more here.

5. Account for life. Build in time for sick days and rest days in your challenge setup.

Create an inclusive step challenge by making room for the unexpected. Some participants may be able to devote time every day of your challenge, but that may not be feasible for all. If you are running a challenge that is longer than 1 to 2 weeks, account for a rest day or two by choosing a challenge mode that allows participants to take a break and still reach their goals.

In MoveSpring, two popular challenge modes for building healthy habits over time are Stick to It and Target. Stick to It helps participants ease into a healthy habit. You'll set a daily activity goal to be met a set number of times over the course of your challenge. It’s okay to miss a few days!

Target, on the other hand, challenges participants to reach a large, total activity goal before challenge end. Participants can track their daily pace to make sure they reach the goal in time. If they miss a day, they have time to make it up by challenge end.

Learn more about the challenge modes offered in MoveSpring here.

Challenging your participants is important, but ensuring everyone has a chance to reach their goal is critical.

Participation and engagement depend on realistic, achievable goals. If participants don’t feel like they will be able to reach their challenge goal, they will become discouraged and disengage. They will also be unlikely to participate in any future challenges.

By using some of our simple strategies, you can keep the whole group moving to their own beat and run successful challenges, every time. Happy stepping! 👟

you got this written in chalk on pavement

Ready to host your own company step challenge?

At MoveSpring, we’re here to support you. MoveSpring is a fun, easy-to-use activity challenge platform for companies and organizations. Visit our website today to learn more about how MoveSpring can help you build an engaging wellness program for your company.


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