The “active couch potato” is a real concern. Through research, we now better understand that too much sitting – even when an individual sets aside time to be physically active on a regular basis – is harmful to health. This means that even though our fitness clients participate in regular exercise sessions with us (2, maybe 3) each week, if they are sedentary at work or at home, they aren’t really gaining much ground in terms of health-related benefits. Instead, let’s help our clients see beyond “exercise” and promote “mindful movement”. The impact of daily mindful movement beyond exercise is profound. Here’s how health and exercise professionals can challenge clients to, quite literally, go the extra mile.

Why Should You Implement Weekly Mindful Movement Challenges?

  • Provides clients with short-term, easy wins (a key to encouraging long-term change)
  • Introduces new activities that clients may be aware of
  • Aids clients in infusing more movement throughout the day without adding high intensity
  • Infuses fun into the mundane

Implementing Weekly Challenges

There’s no specific formula for implementing challenges with clients. The biggest key is to make sure the challenges aren’t out of a client’s reach. In other words, tailor challenges to client needs and ensure alignment with their goals. Obviously, mindful movement challenges will vary based on each individual client and where they are in their journey of change.

Here’s one idea to help jumpstart creative thinking: Beginning each week, make a post on your social media site or send out an email/newsletter presenting the challenge for the week. Make sure to include an accountability tool for clients to use. This could be a pre-designed log or tracking sheet for clients to monitor progress. You’ll also want to check in with clients about their progress and barriers, and collaborate on strategies to overcome those barriers.

Types of Mindful Movement Challenges

Think about how you can add variety to the challenges and combine activities. For example, the challenge might be to perform a 15-minute Yoga routine twice in a week and walk an extra 1,000 steps on the remaining days of the week.

You might also consider what a team challenge would look like. Note, this does not work for every client. Keep in mind the dynamic of your group classes or your clients. This could be an opt-in quarterly challenge where participants can engage in a “bike the distance to X” challenge. Or, holiday challenges can also be effective (think, “Planksgiving”). When doing a team challenge, accountability is helpful but if you ask participants to log their progress in a collective document, include an option to remain anonymous.

Challenge Ideas

  • Take an activity break every hour at work
  • Work at a standing desk at least three hours each day
  • Hold a wall sit or do squats while brushing your teeth this week
  • Do one part of a triathlon on your own this week (run, bike, or swim!)
  • Complete a partner workout
  • “Hike Mount Everest” (aka do a 5.5-mile hike, because that’s how tall Everest is)
  • Hold two walking meetings this week
  • Hold a plank for X amount of time every other day (assuming you know that their form is solid)
  • Weekly Walk-a-thon – walk an additional X number of steps by the end of the week
  • Exercise of the week challenge. Present a new movement and encourage participants to complete so many reps every other day.

The Bottom Line

Challenges work! When you introduce a new challenge, it helps clients practice the principle of overload (without them even noticing) and it introduces their bodies and minds to a new type of movement. Also, think about the influence your clients’ challenges will likely have on other family members. For example, doing squats while brushing teeth can appeal to younger members of the household. What starts as a challenge transforms into a tradition. The benefit extends beyond the client you directly impact. Weekly challenges are just another tool to add to your tool belt to help your clients be the best that they can be.


Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at