Few lasted the full 55 days.
What have we learned from this challenge? In short: life happens.
It's pretty hard to not miss a day here and there, even with the best of intentions. It's next to impossible not to get sick, or injured, in a 2-3 month span. If you're not sick, perhaps your children are. Or work gets in the way in an unplanned, unexpected way. I was able to complete the challenge and do something every single day, but there were three days where I had to stretch to get to the bare minimum we'd set. Life happened. It was just out of my control.
And that doesn't even begin to touch the issue of motivation. It's easy to get excited at the start. How many diets begin in earnest, only to fail after a few days? 55 days didn't seem that long, initially, but it's well past the 21 days they say it takes to form a habit. (That's a myth, by the way). What I noticed was that the people who lasted, were the people who were already pretty active on a regular basis, myself included. I knew I could tackle the challenge because I was already pretty much there. So, on those few days where I might have called them rest days, or where I'd have simply said, "this is a life-happens kind of day" I pushed myself to do a minimum of 20-30 minutes of walking just to be able to post about it. It was far more difficult for those for whom it was a bigger lifestyle change.
What worked about this challenge?
Accountability. Having people see what you were doing, knowing there was a place to post, helped. At least, it helped me. Had it been only among friends, I might have had days where I'd just explain why I couldn't do it on that day, and let it go. Administering the challenge on a group, community page put more pressure on and I knew that not completing it was not an option. I never gave myself an out.
Positive goals. The idea was to do something, not to eliminate, reduce, or NOT do something. That made it easier to push yourself because once it was done, you could post about it and be on your way. Avoiding something means you are constantly expending energy trying not to do it, as with the case of abstaining from certain foods.
Community. Not unlike accountability, there was a unity built with those who were in it, and the chance to congratulate each other on our success. It's also important to have people who will gently encourage you (no berating allowed!), or be able to give tips, advice, and support when it's needed.
Daily tracking. It is important to write down your goals, and it's important to manually track your progress. It doesn't matter whether it's a food journal, or exercise diary, whether it's online or on paper, the people who've had long term success with maintaining weight loss have tracked their daily activity.
These are the hallmarks of weight loss and fitness success.
The fact that we had these built in to the challenge, and still so many people found it hard to stick with it illustrates how hard it is to make changes to health and fitness habits, and how hard it is to do anything without little breaks in between.
Truth is, rest days and breaks are important. It shouldn't be necessary to be that active all the time. Doing intense exercise every day, even for short bursts, isn't healthy either. Too much of a good thing may be bad for you. The body needs rest. It needs to recover. But they also say that sitting is the new smoking; that is, we are built to move and stretch on a regular basis and too few of us get that kind of movement. So, it may not be necessary to sweat it out every day. I liked that this challenge included just walking, moving, cleaning, doing daily tasks to get active, every day.
If nothing else, it made a lot of us aware of the need to move around. It made us aware of how much effort it takes to make that commitment. It made me aware that I need some kind of routine in order to stick with it, but that there are loads of options for getting active, because I saw what others were doing.
If you started on the challenge, and dropped out, ask yourself why? What happened? And once you missed one day, did you feel like you couldn't re-join? This is the challenge of fitness in general. How to get back up when you stumble, how to keep going. Ultimately, life is not a game. There are no winners or losers in this. So it's always possible to start over. Even if you have to wake up each day and re-set, making it day 1. At least you'll be on your way.