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The 22 push up challenge: why fitness challenges appeal to the masses

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The 22 push up challenge is part of a larger movement of nutrition and fitness challenges which have become popular as a way to tap into accountability through a group.

If you've been online recently, you may have come across a video like this:

That's actor John Krasinski taking on the 22 push up challenge.  The actor posted a video of himself doing 22 push up, then challenged fellow actors like Chris Evans to do the same. The challenge has been making the rounds for some time now.

A group called 22-Kill is hopeful that the fitness challenge will help raise awareness about mental health issues in the military. One study, though controversial, estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, hence the 22 push-ups.

It's part of a bigger trend of fitness challenges - where participants rely on social media, the internet and most of all, the tactic of accountability to achieve their goals.

For more on this strategy, we turn now to Michael Stanwyck - he's the creator of a challenge that started here in LA and has now grown to six continents and nearly 80,000 participants. 

Interview Highlights

What do you see as the biggest challenge or stumbling block to achieving fitness goals?

"I think probably, the biggest stumbling block I've seen and I've been doing something like this for about 10 years, is that people's goals are way too big, they're way too big. And it's not that they shouldn't have some goals far out in the future but being able to have something that's small and it's bite size...the 22 push ups, it's a very small goal and as fitness challenges go and no disrespect to the challenge, it's as much about fitness as the ALS challenge was about cooling off. It's an awareness piece and the thing that may work about it is that it is a very small bite, you know, you can do it. And I think anything that gets people into the idea that they can do it is a really good entry point to fitness."

I just want to say for the record, I was actually challenged by a vet, to do this at my gym, who got up in front of our class and said 'Hey, there's this thing will you do it with me,' and it's really hard to say to a vet, 'Hey I'm not going to do this to help you raise awareness,' but then you start posting videos and people see it and there's this certain group atmosphere to it that I feel like is maybe a better incentive than something that's more isolated.

"Absolutely, what we do, the whole life challenge is very team oriented. We do have people who participate on their own but we encourage everybody to do it, either with their family, with their friends, with their workplace because that social accountability is really important. And I think social media can be really tricky, cause there's kind of that social pressure versus social accountability and going into why you're actually doing something and having to put yourself out there to prove's just a fine line people have to walk between doing them for themselves and doing it for social approval."


The 22 push up challenge that I did, it's 22 push ups for 22 days, we actually started this back in March and we're still doing it, my little group, cause it was really hard to stop and we really like it...your challenge the whole life challenge it's a little bit more complicated, can you give us the down and dirty quick version of how it works.

"Absolutely. So, it's an immersive challenge. It really is about your entire life, but like I said, we don't really believe in really big hairy audacious goals. We like people to have entry points to what we call the seven daily habits which are nutrition, exercise, mobilization which some people might think of as stretching, sleep, water, various lifestyle practices, things that introduce you to destressing activities like gratitude and meditation and finally a daily reflection. The thing about each category is the requirements for fulfillment are actually quite small. While we don't really care what it is that you do for exercise, whatever you consider exercise, is your exercise for the day as long as you do something for 10 minutes. The nutrition aspect is not strict, it's not a paleo diet, it's nothing like that. We do have levels that people can buy in at, some very introductory like no bread, no cheese, no pasta, no soda, no beer and some much more stringent like paleo. And you score yourself every day based on whether you did the exercise: yes or no. Whether you did the stretching: yes or no. Whether you incorporated lifestyle practice: yes or no."

 To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.

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