Harry Economou: Step Count Challenges support NHS Forth Valley to be physically active

Workplaces which encourage physical activity in and around the working day experience increased productivity, fewer sick days and a happier, healthier team.

A workplace team enjoy a walk together along a riverside path.

Everyone likes a little competition! The nation's favourite workplace walking challenge invites teams from Scotland to take part, find fun ways to stay active in and around the working day and compete for the top spot of a national leader board. During the year, we run two national Step Count Challenges – an eight-week challenge in the spring, and a four-week challenge in autumn.

However, we also offer bespoke challenges for workplaces at a time and date outwith the national challenges that suits the aims and schedule of your organisation. You can enjoy tips, tools and blogs to keep your team motivated, happy and healthy. Choosing to walk and travel actively during the challenge increases focus and productivity, reduces staff sickness and tackles our climate emergency by reducing carbon footprints.

Harry Economou, Active Travel Project Officer with Forth Environment Link, shares his experience of managing bespoke Step Count Challenges with NHS Forth Valley as Step Count Coordinator and how staff are enjoying the benefits of physical activity in and around the working day.

Forth Environment Link (FEL) is working closely with NHS Forth Valley on numerous projects such as the Step Count Challenge, the 90-day e-bike trials, and health patient programs. Through these projects, we aim to create opportunities for NHS staff and patients to be more physically active, something that not only benefits their physical health but also their mental well-being. The Step Count Challenge has proven to be very successful as it gives the opportunity to everyone, regardless of their age and fitness level, to take part and to simply feel healthier and happier. As someone who’s role at FEL is to encourage people to incorporate a more physically active approach when commuting, I was inspired to become the Challenge Coordinator and run several bespoke challenges for the NHS Forth Valley.

Incentivising the challenge is something that attracts more participants. It is for this reason, when it comes to motivating participants and inspiring involvement, we plan weekly in-house competitions but more importantly offer prizes for the top teams.

Even though the challenges are successful, there were moments where I had to go the extra mile to get everyone involved. Occasionally, individuals who wanted to take part in the challenge didn’t have a team to register with. I put them in touch with other participants who were either looking for teammates or they were needing an extra team member to complete their team. Apart from that, there were no other challenges to motivate teams to get involved.

The physical and mental health benefits of the challenge was a motivating factor for the participants. They loved replacing some car journeys with walking. Most participants said that they loved spending time outdoors, they enjoyed the fresh air and having weekly goals motivated them to keep going. They also added that they drew strength and support from one another in more ways than they could have ever imagined when they first signed up. Most of them have said that during the challenge they felt happier but also healthier, as a lot of them achieved their ‘’lose weight’’ targets.

A lot of the teams created a WhatsApp group so they can stay in touch and keep going for walks even after the challenge is over. The consensus was that participants enjoyed being outside, knowing that connecting with nature is better for their health as well as the planet. It also made them think of it as a lifestyle change rather than a five-week challenge.

If you are interested in hosting your own bespoke Step Count Challenge, find out more at: www.stepcount.org.uk/bespoke-step-count-challenges