The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) has started 2018 with a ‘Step Count Challenge’ to support and encourage staff to increase their level of physical exercise.
IPH staff’s aim was to collectively walk over 555 miles (893 kilometres) – which is the distance from Dublin to Paris – over the first six weeks of 2018. By the end of the six weeks, IPH staff had walked over four times that distance completing 2,400 miles.
Now that they have come to the end of that initial six-week period (the challenge began on 8 January ), IPH Interim CEO, Professor Roger O’Sullivan, explained that they have in fact walked over five million steps during the first six weeks of the challenge and have long passed Paris and indeed passed Moscow.
Setting out the backdrop to the ‘Step Count Challenge’, Professor Roger O’Sullivan, highlighted that:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies lack of physical activity as the fourth leading factor for mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year across the world;
- Fewer than 50% of adults on the island of Ireland meet their minimum physical activity requirements of 150 minutes per week;
- Less than a third (31.3%) of the Republic’s adult population meet current physical activity guidelines;
- In Northern Ireland, 42.7% of adults are meeting the guidelines.
“The WHO point out that, given the amount of time people spend at work, workplaces can make a critical contribution to helping people meet their physical activity targets. This is why IPH has encouraged staff members to undertake an initial six-week Step Count Challenge with the aim of collectively ‘walking’ the distance from Dublin to Paris.
“Working in teams of four – to provide each other with support and encouragement – the staff concerned counted their steps each day with a view to increasing their level of daily exercise. I was surprised by how low my own daily steps were during the first week. Now with some simple changes – such as walking distances I would have previously driven or taken public transport – I have now more than doubled my number of weekly steps.”
“Although it’s all a bit of fun there is a serious message behind it. Regular moderate intensity physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression.”
Within the Healthy Ireland agenda a Healthy Workplace Framework for both public and private sector employments is being developed, led by the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the ROI, supported by IPH.
Professor O’Sullivan concluded “workplaces can play a significant role in supporting public health challenges. Employers have the opportunity to look at ways to encourage staff to take more physical activity during the year ahead. This can be done in simple ways like the Step Count Challenge, by getting staff to use stairs (rather than lifts or escalators) or initiate an active travel policy to encourage more walking or cycling or by embracing standing meetings.”