There’s no disputing the success of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”: huge ratings, successful DVD sales and the fact that Jillian Michaels and Bill Germanakos now are household names. Not to mention, that employers have taken the show’s concept and run (and walked and biked) with it — with great wellness success. 

Just a few examples:

* At ACI Specialty Benefits, staff was broken into teams, each led by an executive for this wellness challenge, earning wellness points toward team totals for weight loss, participating in physical activity (including ACI’s onsite yoga and strength-training classes) and smoking cessation.  Not only did the competition garner an 86% participation rate, but in just 10 weeks, 26 employees lost over 100 pounds combined and performed nearly 400 hours of physical activity.   

* The "Fat Bowl" competition at Moen, a North Olmsted, Ohio-based manufacturer of faucets and bathroom accessories, led to some employees losing up to 40 pounds and no longer needing medications for hypertension or diabetes.

* Arlington County, Va.’s 12-week Local Motion program in 2006 and 2007 divvied employees into teams and had participants use online tools to record daily exercise, daily water intake and weekly weight. Weekly team standings and individual accomplishments were publicized in newsletters, and kept participants motivated through 30-minute interactive discussions with health coaches. Participants lost a combined 916 pounds and lost 1,270 inches from the chest, bicep, waist and hips. About 62% of the weight that participants lost during the wellness program has stayed off.

We all know that competitive drive and the potential to win prizes will make people do some great (and sometimes goofy) things. I think these examples are enough to show that simply having more than two employees and telling them it’s a contest can yield big wellness results — even if employees didn’t initially set out to improve their health.

As ACI employee Keri Gutierrez said, “I signed up for ACI’s Biggest Loser challenge for a little friendly competition, and ended up losing over 20 pounds. I feel great.” 

Could it be that competition is the biggest and best carrot of them all? Sound off in the comments.

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