Global corporate challenge not that global: Where on my dress do I put this pedometer?

Today is the first day of the global corporate challenge (or GCC), a challenge where you team up with six of your closest workmates and try to walk 10,000 steps (or more) per day each.  The theory is that by increasing workers’ average number of steps from 3,500 (the stated pre-challenge average on the GCC web site) to 10,000, those who participate in the challenge will see an increase in health and wellbeing from their increased activity levels.

Making people feel better is an admirable goal, and despite the wider issues with the GCC (for example prioritisation of walking over all other forms of activity, as evidenced by the ridiculously stingy cycle to walk conversion, the “speeding ticktets” issued for those who do too much exercise, and the relatively rigid defninition of an athlete) both testimonials and research show that it is helping at least some of its participants to feel better, and that’s a good thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I am regular exerciser (on average 6 days per week) who does a variety of types of exercise (cycling, walking, aerobics, weight training, swimming, yoga…), who is female, and who is participating in the GCC.  As a participant, and as a usability consultant I have one major problem with how things work within the parameters of the GCC:  The pedometers we have been issued.

The rules of the GCC state that steps can only be entered from the official GCC pedometer (each participant gets two pedometers at the beginning of the challenge).  Given that one could reasonably expect that approximately 50% of participants are likely to be women (or maybe slightly more, if we take into account that cross culturally, women appear to walk more than men (PDF)) the choice of pedometer design for the challenge seems less than ideal.

The pedometer is the type designed to be worn on a waistband, completely upright, at one’s hip.  Moreover it does not have the type of clip that opens and closes, but rather it slides down over the top of a waistband.  This makes it considerably difficult to wear with a wide variety of women’s clothing:

  • Women’s trouser styles are much more likely to have trousers stop at the waist (or above the hip) than men
  • Skirts are often held up by women’s hips, meaning they too sit higher than the ideal for pedometer placement
  • Dresses leave nowhere to clip the pedometer at all. Given that this is a coroporate challenge, and women  are in some corporations required to wear a skirt (and that even where it is not required, in some places it is recommended), the pedometer not really working with a dress seems a considerable oversight)
  • Belts and sashes make the pedometer difficult to clip on because of the thickness of the material
  • The style of clip means the pedometer is much more likely than an open-close clip to come off when trousers are pulled down–arguably something women are likely to do more often than men.

There are alternative styles of pedometer (including those that can be worn around the neck or placed in a bag, and watch-style pedometers), so I assume that the pedometer chosen by the GCC was based on some combination of accuracy and price. In my opinion, neither accuracy nor price can justify the difficulty presented to women by this model of pedometer (when alternatives are available.  Clip-style pedometers are only accurate when worn at all (impossible with some women’s clothing), and worn in the right place, so many women’s readings will not be accurate.  The entry fee for the GCC was nearly $100 AUD per person, and for this it would seem considerably more sensible to supply participants with pedometers that actually count all their steps accurately, rather than providing backpacks, hats, water bottles and extra pedometers.

Like the clip-style ipod shuffle, it feels like the organisers of the GCC just didn’t think about the whole population when they were making design decisions, and as a result of this women participants are disadvantaged (at least in terms of their step count, if not in terms of their actual gained benefit).  To let the organisers know for next year, I will be emailing a link to this blog post to their follow up email, included on the pedometer box, and I encourage all other participants to do the same.

Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to participating in the challenge, and perhaps learning something about my daily habits (I’m well over the 3,500 average workers make without having done any actual targeted steps, so it is nice to know that I am not as sedentary as the average worker, for example).  If only I could figure out where to clip the thing for those two weddings I have to go to…

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7 Responses to “Global corporate challenge not that global: Where on my dress do I put this pedometer?”


  1. 1 Glenn Riseley Friday, May 22, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you Dana for your comments regarding the GCC. Firstly, I’d like to share with you a little bit about our motivations for establishing the GCC. We believe that we’ve identified an opportunity to help address the emerging obesity epidemic. We are not a government funded body, we’re three individuals who set out to make a measurable difference.

    Today there are 10 million working Australians with an average of two chronic health conditions each. The Federal Government spends around $100 billion on health annually and roughly 70% of that is spent on chronic conditions – 70% of those conditions are caused by lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking. Essentially $50 billion is spent on preventable conditions but the government is only spending 1.8% of its budget on preventative measures. This is fairly typical of governments around the world. 1.8% of the budget is being spent on 50% of the problem. The current system is fairly reactive and is geared towards dealing with people once they fall ill. In our view, there is enormous scope to reach out to people and empower them to change their lifestyles long before they become ill. We identified that workplaces were the ideal place to help change people’s behaviour. After all, we spend so much of our lives at work, the venue is supplied by employers and employers share a common goal because a healthy workforce is a happier and more productive workforce.

    What you see when visiting the GCC website is the product of a creative approach and an enormous amount of feedback and ideas. We take participant feedback very seriously and have adopted many ideas put forward via emails just like yours. Equally, we’re open to being challenged about ways we can further improve.
    The GCC is in its sixth year and is currently taking place in over 60 countries and 1200 organisations, making it the largest event of its kind globally. The principals that govern the event are based on sound scientific research on physical activity, sustainability and ease of use. Dana , we have noted your comment that, “The theory is that by increasing workers’ average number of steps from 3,500 (the stated pre-challenge average on the GCC web site) to 10,000, those who participate in the challenge will see an increase in health and wellbeing from their increased activity levels” . This is absolutely true and it is why we set out to establish the Global Corporate Challenge and get the world moving. Each year we invest heavily into clinical research which indicates that this theory is correct. For example our ground breaking studies with Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine demonstrate that real measureable health outcomes are obtained. These include reductions in weight, BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These findings will soon be published in peer reviewed medical journals and will be available for all to read. The GCC is the only long term , population based physical activity program with clinically proven health benefits.

    We’d also like to provide a little more information in relation to your quote: “Making people feel better is an admirable goal, and despite the wider issues with the GCC ( for example prioritisation of walking over all other forms of activity, as evidenced by the ridiculously stingy cycle to walk conversion, the “speeding ticktets” issued for those who do too much exercise, and the relatively rigid defninition of an athlete) both testimonials and research show that it is helping at least some of its participants to feel better, and that’s a good thing.”

    The GCC is about getting everyday working people to reconnect with being active. This in turn impacts hugely on their health and well over 80% of people in last year’s GCC responded by saying they feel better. The GCC is primarily a workplace intervention, and sharing physical activity goals with work collegues has been shown to be highly effective in long term sustainability of exercise. Walking is the easiest form of exercise and the most widely accessible for most people in the workforce. In its purest form, GCC is about helping people recognise the small, incidental opportunities to exercise in their day. By making small adjustments like taking the stairs instead of the lift and parking a little further from their destination, people are able to triple their level of activity during a workday. We also introduced cycling activity in our third year of operation. This is an example of taking on board participant feedback. The reason we allocate less steps for cyclists is that we wanted to ensure that the steps awarded towards cycling activity was commensurate with the energy burned. We engaged a leading Human Movement Scientist to determine the calculation to ensure parity between walking and cycling efforts. In addition to this, from a practical perspective, seven cyclist would finish the event in just over two months. Which isn’t in the spirit of the event. Speeding tickets also grew out of participant feedback. This function is simply a way to flag any step inputs which may be accidental. For example if a participant accidentally enters an additional digit into the system we can flag it and they can review it for us. As far as the seven elite athletes in a team goes, there is a sound reason underpinning this. The GCC is all about getting sedentary people moving. Our research has shown that one of the best ways to do this is to put people in teams, where the fitter and more active people in the workplace (such as you Dana) can, through their own positive habits and love of exercise, help encourage, support, nurture and motivate those who are not highly active. Mixing teams up with highly active people and less active people also helps keep teams moving through the course at a reasonably consistent pace and keeps everyone together. This in turn helps foster some healthy rivalry and helps prevent the event becoming a highly competitive and elite competition. There are enough of those types of events already.

    Dana, you also outlined the following thoughts: The rules of the GCC state that steps can only be entered from the official GCC pedometer (each participant gets two pedometers at the beginning of the challenge). Given that one could reasonably expect that approximately 50% of participants are likely to be women (or maybe slightly more, if we take into account that cross culturally, women appear to walk more than men (PDF)) the choice of pedometer design for the challenge seems less than ideal.
    The pedometer is the type designed to be worn on a waistband, completely upright, at one’s hip. Moreover it does not have the type of clip that opens and closes, but rather it slides down over the top of a waistband. This makes it considerably difficult to wear with a wide variety of women’s clothing:
    • Women’s trouser styles are much more likely to have trousers stop at the waist (or above the hip) than men
    • Skirts are often held up by women’s hips, meaning they too sit higher than the ideal for pedometer placement
    • Dresses leave nowhere to clip the pedometer at all Given that this is a coroporate challenge, and women are in some corporations required to wear a skirt (and that even where it is not required, in some places it is recommended), the pedometer not really working with a dress seems a considerable oversight)
    • Belts and sashes make the pedometer difficult to clip on because of the thickness of the material
    • The style of clip means the pedometer is much more likely than an open-close clip to come off when trousers are pulled down–arguably something women are likely to do more often than men.
    There are alternative styles of pedometer (including those that can be worn around the neck or placed in a bag, and watch-style pedometers), so I assume that the pedometer chosen by the GCC was based on some combination of accuracy and price. In my opinion, neither accuracy nor price can justify the difficulty presented to women by this model of pedometer (when alternatives are available. Clip-style pedometers are only accurate when worn at all (impossible with some women’s clothing), and worn in the right place, so many women’s readings will not be accurate. The entry fee for the GCC was nearly $100 AUD per person, and for this it would seem considerably more sensible to supply participants with pedometers that actually count all their steps accurately, rather than providing backpacks, hats, water bottles and extra pedometers.
    Like the clip-style ipod shuffle, it feels like the organisers of the GCC just didn’t think about the whole population when they were making design decisions, and as a result of this women participants are disadvantaged (at least in terms of their step count, if not in terms of their actual gained benefit). To let the organisers know for next year, I will be emailing a link to this blog post to their follow up email, included on the pedometer box, and I encourage all other participants to do the same.
    As far as we can tell (and our travel and testing and research and development in to this is very extensive) the GCC pedometer is the most accurate and durable pedometer in the world. Independent testing shows that over 1 million steps it maintains an accuracy on 99.99% repeatedly. Other pedometers we’ve examined in the marketplace don’t have the accuracy or durability of our 2009 GCC pedometer. Further to this , the clip strength of the pedometer has been tested to withstand 23 kg of weight, making it extremely tough. The majority of women participate in the GCC and have so for six years. In fact the development of the pedometer has stemmed from listening and working with women in the event. This has resulted in a smaller more streamlined version that blends in with clothing. It also has less moving parts and is therefore less likely to suffer breakdowns over what is a fairly gruelling test for a pedometer – 125 continuous days of wear.
    Feedback from a sample of over 90,000 female participants over the years has been that pedometers worn around their necks was not a preferable. We also have to take into account OH&S laws across some 70+ countries where some of the clips you were alluding to are not permitted. Our main priority is to have a pedometer that can be easily affixed, but which is also very sturdy and highly unlikely to fall off. The GCC pedometer is worn by a wide range of employees across a broad industry base (for example we can’t have it falling off into a vat of chocolate! ). We have kept up to date with the latest developments in pedometers and this includes pedometer watches. However, the accuracy of these pedometers to date is well below acceptable levels. In closing, Dana, it is our goal to make the GCC as accessible and as fun and empowering for all participants as possible. Each year it is our quest to make the experience for participants even better than the previous year’s. So far we’ve managed to doublethe number of people around the world whom we’ve been able to reach each year, which is a sign we’re on the right track. But we’re not perfect and we accept that is important that participants approach the GCC with a reasonable amount of goodwill and high spirits.

    We trust this helps Dana and we thank you for your thoughts and input.

    Shane Bilsborough and Glenn Riseley
    Global Corporate Challenge

  2. 2 danamckay Friday, May 22, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Thank you for your long and detailed response, Glenn. I’m thoroughly impressed to see how much testing GCC have done, and I am certainly not disputing the great good a programme like this can do in the workplace!

    Having said that, I would still love to see an alternative style of pedometer on offer next year (ideally the kind that can go in a bag), because the accuracy of this year’s official pedometer is predicated on dressing to accommodate it–if you’re not wearing it, or not wearing it correctly, it won’t count the right number of steps.

    I also find it really interesting that this style is preferred by OH&S rules–having worn both this one and the open and close type, this is the one that has nearly hit the toilet the most often (and one of my teammates has nearly lost hers in the drink too). Having said that, I applaud you for doing the research on this matter, because it opens participation up to a wider range of professions.

    Once again, thanks for your comment and I look forward to counting my steps for the next four months.

  3. 3 Colleen Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Dana,
    I too have this problem. The work around I discovered is to wear a pair of bike or yoga shorts under the dress and attach the pedometer to the waist band. This has varying degrees of success based on the cut and material of the dress; while you usually cannot see the shorts, even with more fitted dresses, there will be a slight bulge at the waist from the podometer. Not ideal but works for me.

  4. 4 Angelique Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 5:04 am

    My issue is more of the nature that my peds keeping pooping out on me. I don’t know if there is a heat or humidity limitation on these things, but it’s very annoying to see my averages go from 13k in a day to 5k in one week. And it’s happened twice now. Here’s to hoping the next one works better and longer or my entry fee is going to double!

  5. 5 Pamela Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Loved the eloquence of the communications here. I’m a first timer at GCC and am loving it. If I’m wearing a dress I just stick my pedometer on the waistband of my knickers. The small lump that shows is no bigger than anything I bring to the dress anyway.
    We do need to remember the spirit in which this programme was devised – to incrementally increase the movement of those of us who are reasonably sedentary.
    Cheers GCC – between getting me moving, providing an easy way for me to track my progress and helping me find my competitive spirit, I think you are doing a wonderful thing here!

    • 6 Glenn Riseley Friday, May 31, 2013 at 1:08 am

      Thanks Pamela. We are always innovating to make the process of getting people to change their behavior as simple as possible. A crucial part of this is the device and this year we’ve taken a pretty big leap forward by developing a 3D accelerometer called the GCC Pulse. This has the same kind of technology as an I-phone and the benefit to participants is that you can wear it anywhere on your body and it will accurately measure what you do. So rather than having it clipped to your waistband it can be in your handbag or in a pocket or wherever is most convenient. Wearing the GCC Pulse is a real wake up call for most people and helps you understand how sedentary you are, but equally important is the process of creating a ritual each day of punching in your step count and receiving the instant feedback and gratification from the website. The journey around the world becomes a journey of self discovery for people because as the weeks go past you realize that being physically active and changing the way you look at food isn’t anywhere near as hard as you thought. In fact rather than getting caught up with trying to be better than other people, you realize that in order to change, you just have to be better than you used to be. I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying yourself Pamela.
      Good health,
      Glenn

  6. 7 Hazel Stilgoe-McCombe BSc Hons Friday, June 21, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I too find the pedometre falls off very easily I have to wedge it onto the top of my bra not the strap as the strap is too slim, as its the waist band of skirts and trousers. It does fall off at least twice a day unless wedged.


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