Being Physically Active
The benefits of physical activity have been well documented for an astounding amount of time, with the earliest record of using physical activity for health promotion coming from ancient China in around 2500 BC (A history of physical activity, health and medicine). More recent research has shown exercise to reduce the risk of many chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic respiratory problems and obesity.
It is medically proven that people who participate in regular physical activity have up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
National guidelines recommend that adults undertake a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Despite these recommendations being highly publicised, it is widely acknowledged that the nation’s working population is not active enough to lead a healthy lifestyle. Physical Activity levels in the UK are amongst the lowest in Europe (World Health Organisation), with more men meeting the guidelines than women (British Heart Foundation). Aside from the health implications, research show that physical inactivity costs the UK an estimated £8.2bn/year (Sustrans).
Physical activity may be low on the modern person’s agenda, with work and family commitments often taking the priority spot. However, with physical inactivity being described as the biggest public health problem of the 21st century (Steven N Blair, British Medical Journal), it is important that we take steps to address this.
Physical Activity and the Workplace
With 60% of our waking hours being spent at work, increasing opportunities to be more active in the workplace is vital. The Scottish Government’s Physical Activity Strategy states that ‘workplaces are an ideal setting to reach a large section of the adult population’ and highlights the ‘pressure of work’ as one of the most common barriers to increasing physical activity.
Workplaces are increasingly focusing on ‘prevention’, with many employers encouraging employees to be more physically active. Whilst this improves the health of the individual, organisations also reap the benefits of a more active workforce through, for example, increased productivity, reduced absence and improved morale.
Physical Activity Challenges
With employee wellness becoming a priority for organisations, Physical Activity Challenges are growing in popularity nationwide. This method of improving physical activity within the workplace helps to engage employees and promote physical activity in a fun way.
Having a strong digital presence for the Physical Activity Challenges streamlines the process, enabling workplaces across Scotland to participate whilst making the sign-up process more accessible for participants.
As the benefits of walking are often overlooked, wearable technology can be used to provide users with a deeper understanding of their activity levels and how to improve upon them in a personalised way. Wearables can be incorporated into workplace challenges to provide a means of capturing activity data, automatically updating online accounts and bench-marking against other participants.
The Step Count Challenge
Paths for All is a Scottish Government funded organisation which aims to reduce the proportion of the population who are physically inactive through a national walking strategy. This is achieved by promoting and sharing news of the number, quality and accessibility of walking paths across Scotland.
Storm Health and Paths for All have been collaborating over the last few years in the development of the Step Count Challenge Platform, with the aim of encouraging workplaces across Scotland to participate.
The Step Count Challenge shines a spotlight on more active workforces, acting as a catalyst to spark year round activity. The challenge actively encourages staff to take small steps towards a healthier, more physically active lifestyle by introducing regular activity to their daily lives.
How it Works
- Organisations form teams
- Step Count sets the goals
- Participants monitor their activity levels with an app, wearable device or pedometer
- Each participant records daily steps and tracks their progress on a leader board against competing teams
- At the end of the challenge, there is a special prize draw for the Team Captains
Since its inception thousands of people have taken part in the challenge. In the first year of the Digital Step Counts there was a 40% uptake on participants compared to the previous year and the amount of steps taken by users doubled, reaching 884 million steps – that’s nearly 500,000 miles or the distance to the moon and back!
The service also acts as an effective behavioral change tool that has increased physical activity levels in thousands of individuals. Research from the University of Edinburgh shows that three months after using the system users are, on average, active for 200 minutes a week and have decreased their sitting time by one hour per day.
Storm Health developed a dynamic activity conversion tool which allows participants to view the number of miles they have jogged or meters swam, converting the figures into an equivalent number of steps. This provides participants with the freedom to record an activity of their choice.
Get Involved in the Autumn Step Count Challenge
To get your workplace moving, it’s not too late to sign up to the next physical activity challenge!
The Paths for All Autumn Step Count Challenge commences on the 31st October and runs for four weeks. Sign up for the Challenge now at www.stepcount.org.uk and start counting your steps to a healthier you.