Feature Article - March 2010
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Steps Toward Wellness

Communities & Facilities Take Action to Improve Health

By Dawn Klingensmith

What Spurs People to Action?

Incentives. Offering small rewards when people reach certain milestones keeps them on track through positive reinforcement. Incentives are effective for adults and children alike.

Competition. "Biggest Loser" type of weight-loss and wellness programs have proved to enhance motivation and foster social support, resulting in lower attrition rates and significantly more pounds shed, especially when participants compete as teams instead of individuals, according to a study conducted by the University of Delaware's psychology department, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the County Health Improvement Program in Williamsport, Pa.

Social networking. Social media can be utilized as part of a wellness program to drive behavior change. Shape Up The Nation is an online exercise and weight loss program with tools allowing users to share their goals and successes and spur one another on. For example, participants can give each other virtual high fives.

Feedback. "People are motivated by immediate, objective feedback," which is why pedometers are so effective, said Fitness by Phone coach Tiffany Crate, TLC Fitness, Chicago. For a fee, the Belton (Mo.) Parks and Recreation Department provides "Smartkeys" for fitness center users. The device is a key-shaped microchip that inserts into consoles attached to exercise equipment and collects workout data, so users receive immediate feedback and can also track their progress over time.