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How to get the most out of your Virgin HealthMiles Program

Updated on June 25, 2013

Workplace wellness programs, like Virgin HealthMiles, are becoming quite common. The reason is pretty simple, research shows that by engaging employees in these social, game-like programs and nudging them towards making better decisions for their health saves companies money in health insurance costs. It also provides you, the employee, with the sweet promise of a few dollars every three months if you wear a pedometer around every day. At first glance, it seems easy, but many are surprised to find how little they actually walk and just how much more they will need to do in order to succeed at get that maximum reward, I know I was. Below are some tips to help you maximize your HealthMiles.

Complete your profile

Completing my profile was worth 200 HealthMiles for me; this is one of the easiest ways to get pain free miles. Upload a picture, any picture, it doesn't actually have to be a picture of you if you aren't comfortable with that, my profile picture has my face hidden. Add a motto for yourself. I know, it's a bit ridiculous and forced but just do it. This, again, can be anything - "Walk", "March", "Forward", "Blah!", etc. You get the idea. Put in some goals and interests and the other little details and you will be all set. There is just no reason not to do this.

Agree to the Tobacco-free Agreement

This is found under the menu "measure" at the top. If you don't smoke, just go in and agree and collect your 100 HealthMiles. If you smoke, just go in and agree, collect your 100 HealthMiles, and quit smoking. You can thank me later for the extra years of life.

Join a group

Any group. Or create a group. You can even create a group solely for the purpose of getting the miles and call it that in the title (something like "group creation for miles"). I can confirm without a doubt that this works because I joined such a group along with quite a few others. This is worth 100 HealthMiles.

Post a status update

Seriously, say anything. "Hi", "Walking from the back of the parking lot from now on", "Status update!", whatever. Then collect your 100 HealthMiles.

Make friends

This might not be for everybody and I confess that I still have zero friends in Virgin HealthMiles, but if you are comfortable with it, and if it fits in with your workplace culture, make 5 friend requests. It's worth 50 HealthMiles if you do just that. But it gets better, if you have friends then you can challenge them and this is where the real money is. Just sign up for a challenge and you get 100 HealthMiles and if you are a leader in that challenge then you get 500 HealthMiles!

Weigh yourself

There are a couple of benefits to this - first, you get 50 health miles just for doing it and second, you can get 50 health miles in the next month for entering your weight again and 50 more if your weight improved or stayed within the ideal range if you are already there. There is no reason not to get these miles every single month.

Participate in system challenges

Once every week or two a challenge will come through the system. These can be a variety of things including being aware of nutrition, hydration, or stress simply by logging what you eat, drink, or how you feel. It can also include things like monitoring your blood pressure once a week or beating your own step average for a previous time period. For the most part, these simply require you to participate and, since they can be worth 100-250 HealthMiles each, you definitely should.

Don't walk much?

1. If you start this program and you weren't very active before, make sure you ease yourself into talking all these steps. This is especially true if you are overweight or have other health issues such as cardiovascular or heart disease, be honest with yourself!

2. You will need good walking shoes, don't try to walk 10 miles in dressy work shoes or you will probably be in for some pain later. At the same time, be aware that you will probably wear through your walking shoes faster than you otherwise might simply because you are using them a lot. Bottom line, good comfortable walking shoes are a must but don't spend a fortune on them.

Get to 20,000 steps at least once

If you are of average size this is about 10 miles. The system assumes 2,000 steps per mile in it's calculations, if you are tall you will probably take fewer steps per mile due to longer stride length and if you are short you will take more steps per mile. Here's why you want to do this: you get 100 bonus health miles for reaching 7,000 steps for the first time, 100 bonus miles for reaching 12,000 steps for the first time, and 100 bonus miles for reaching 20,000 steps for the first time. I did >20,000 steps on one of my first days and on that day I got 400 health miles - 100 for the steps and all three of those bonuses, don't miss these bonuses.

By walking to the train and getting off a few stops early, I arrive at work every day already around 7,000 steps.
By walking to the train and getting off a few stops early, I arrive at work every day already around 7,000 steps.

Walk

I know it's obvious but hear me out. Find a way to get at least 7,000 steps per day every single day. If you don't walk that much, learn to jog in place while you do things around the house where you would normally stand (brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, combing your hair, etc). If you drive to work, park farther from the door. If you take a train, get off one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. This final strategy was what I did, I now walk to the train station from home and get off the train several stops early. Funny thing is, I found that I actually like it and it doesn't really take me much more time than before because I'm now avoiding a train connection. My previous average commute time, door-to-door, was about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It now takes me 1 hour and 30 minutes.

At the moment, I average >14,000 steps per day. I've followed all of the advice above, except the friend requests and everything that comes with it, and I achieve the quarterly maximum rewards two weeks before the quarter ends. I also lost 13 pounds without really doing anything but walking more. Final advice, don't give up, you can do it!

How many steps per day do you average?

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