Community weight loss challenges

Community weight loss challenges are temporary programs that aim to energize participating community members to lose weight. Weight loss challenges can be designed as healthy lifestyle education programs, sports competitions between teams, charity donation drives, or faith-based initiatives. Weight loss challenges are typically multi-component interventions that include education, weight status and food intake tracking, regular check-ins, and group support. At the end of the challenge, there are often prizes awarded to the individuals or teams who lost the most weight.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased physical activity

  • Improved nutrition

  • Improved weight status

Evidence of Effectiveness

Community weight loss challenges are a suggested strategy to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and increase weight loss (AHRQ HCIE-Kumar). Available evidence suggests that community weight loss challenges that offer group support and weekly check-ins, use food log diaries or online tracking and performance feedback, and last at least 3-4 months can result in behavior change and weight loss for communities as a whole (Jensen 2013, , AHRQ HCIE-Kumar). Case studies suggest that education regarding nutrition, portion control, physical activity, weight maintenance, and long-term wellness are important components of these challenges (Jensen 2013, , Carter-Edwards 2009). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects, especially studies that report weight changes at the individual level. 

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Communities can choose to implement weight loss challenges on their own or can join statewide efforts. For example, in Rhode Island the Shape Up RI program hosts two 12-week competitive challenges each year (AHRQ HCIE-Kumar). For-profit groups such as ShapeUp have resources for community weight loss challenges (ShapeUp). In many areas across the country, participants can also pay a fee to join a community weight loss challenge program; for example teams pay $20 per person to join Live Healthy America (LHA).

Implementation Resources

CDPHE-Villamaria 2010 - Villamaria A, Knudsen K, Spence J, et al. Colorado worksites: Resources and tools for implementing wellness. Denver: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE); 2010.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Jensen 2013 - Jensen KD. Organizing a community 'biggest loser' weight loss challenge. Journal of Extension. 2013;51(2):2009-13.

Damore 2010* - Damore JF. Weighing in on long-term change: Community weight-loss challenge empowers thousands to make healthy choices. Healthcare Executive. 2010;25(1):56, 58-9.

Carter-Edwards 2009 - Carter-Edwards L, Bastian LA, Schultz M, Amamoo MA, Østbye T. An internet-based weight loss intervention initiated by a newspaper. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2009;6(3):A101.

AHRQ HCIE-Kumar - Kumar R, LaFayette J. Shape Up RI: Statewide, team-based fitness program uses online social networking and competition to promote exercise and weight loss in adults. Rockville: AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

LHA - Live Healthy America (LHA). 10-Week wellness challenge.

AHRQ HCIE-Kumar - Kumar R, LaFayette J. Shape Up RI: Statewide, team-based fitness program uses online social networking and competition to promote exercise and weight loss in adults. Rockville: AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange.

ShapeUp - ShapeUp. Overview of our products: Fitness & nutrition challenges.

Date Last Updated

Jun 10, 2015