Step One, Done. Step Two, Make It Better

The Health Promotion Board’s National Steps ChallengeTM got people moving on their feet in its first season. Now it’s back for Season Two, and it’s bigger and better.

Once working life hits, so does the fatigue – with less energy, less time and fewer opportunities to work out with friends. So, it’s not uncommon to settle into a sedentary lifestyle.

Staying fit or being active can be daunting. It sounds like a lot to ask of our busy selves. However, studies have found that even small increments in physical activity can lead to significant health improvements. For example, for an inactive adult, walking the recommended 7,500 to 10,000 steps daily lowers his blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This reduces the risk of mortality by 19% and aids glucose control in Type 2 diabetes.

So, no profuse perspiring, rapid heart palpitations or deep breathing required. Just some walking.

By encouraging small amounts of physical activity built up over time, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) hopes to demonstrate through the National Steps Challenge how easy it is to keep fit – with only small adjustments to our daily routines.

From insights to (more) action

In its first-ever nationwide steps movement, which ran from November 7, 2015, to May 8, 2016, the HPB mobilised 156,000 people to move more.

Encouraged, it is making the Challenge bigger and better for Season Two.

In Season One, the HPB found that participants responded well to its “sure-win” rewards. In just three months, more than half of the participants managed to achieve all three tiers of rewards (that’s $30 worth of shopping vouchers in total).

Season Two adds on three more reward tiers, and an increase in difficulty levels to challenge participants to work even harder.

The ultimate aim is to create a social movement of active living, using behavioural insights and wearable technology to influence lifestyle changes, says Mr Zee Yoong Kang, Chief Executive Officer, Health Promotion Board.

“We want to help participants sustain their behaviour of incorporating physical activity into their lifestyles,” says Mr Zee.

Season Two also comes equipped with new tech to boot. Previously, participants could only use the HPB-issued steps tracker and the Healthy 365 mobile app. But to make the Challenge even more accessible, the HPB has stepped up its efforts in the tech department; participants can now choose from a variety of tracking technologies and even alternate between them anytime.

So in case a participant forgets to wear her HPB steps tracker (or Apple Watch, Samsung Gear Fit2, or other compatible wearables), she still has her smartphone as back-up for the day.

And given that staying seated at work is often the cause of a drop in a person’s activity levels, the HPB is looking to appeal to working adults specifically.

The Corporate Challenge gives companies the option to partake in intra- and inter- company challenges in the hope of sparking a little friendly competition. That way, cash prizes are not the only incentive for companies to clock their steps – winning also comes with bragging rights.


Walks of life

Take participants Mr Teh Jingwei and Mr Aw Chixiong, both from the National Environment Agency. The senior engineer and scientific officer have adjusted their routines to ensure that they hit the 10,000-step count every day.

Instead of taking the bus, Mr Teh “works” for his lunch by walking to nearby eateries. The 28-year-old, who took part in Season One, also goes to the supermarket in the evenings to help his family members carry home the bags of groceries.

First-time participant Mr Aw, also 28, climbs eight flights of stairs at work daily. “I also walk over to my colleagues’ cubicles for work discussions instead of merely sending emails or discussing work over the phone,” he says.

While both officers have their eyes on the prize, ultimately, the true reward lies in just how good it feels to be active. Both men talk about having become more alert and focused at work.

For Season Two, the HPB had hoped to engage at least 250,000 adult participants. And it looks like it got off on the right foot: by mid-November 2016, the number had already surpassed the target, with some 268,540 participants making their way surely up the ladder of health.

    Nov 1, 2016
    Natalie Goh
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