A SUCCESSFUL and innovative programme to get Reading walking is returning this year with the support of the Council and the Borough’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
This year’s Beat the Street will run from 29 April- 24 June when 210 beat boxes will be placed throughout Reading, Pangbourne, Mortimer, Theale and Burghfield.
15,074 people in and around Reading took part in the Beat the Street initiative last spring. Almost a quarter of a million miles – more than the distance between the Earth and the moon - were covered by eager walkers and cyclists, with teams from 30 primary schools, Reading University and other community groups competing for top prizes.
At the start of the 2014 competition 35% of adult participants met the Department of Health guideline for physical activity of 150 minutes a week. At the end of the competition this increased to 45% and was maintained at 53% three months after Beat the Street ended.
Residents participated individually or in teams by tapping personalised cards onto ‘beat boxes’ around the town to record their journey on foot or by bike. 130 Beat Boxes were positioned at key locations such as schools, shops and Reading Station.
Dr William Bird MBE creator of Beat the Street said: “We are delighted to be able to run Beat the Street in Reading (our home town) again and work with the council and CCGs to make physical activity a daily habit. Last year we had incredible participation and enthusiasm but we know we can do more. We have showed it helps improve health, travel and community engagement but most of all we found people really enjoyed the game. This year we want to get even more people playing and getting to know their town. This is a community challenge for everyone and we invite groups, businesses and individuals to get in touch and get involved in the 8 week challenge.”
82% of respondents in an evaluation of last year’s programme felt that Beat the Street assisted them in being more active, and 73% said that it had helped them to feel healthier. 62% took advantage of the programme’s competitive elements to have fun, while 44% of those interviewed used it as a way to spend time with family and friends.
Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health said:
“Beat the Street has been extremely successful in getting Reading residents to rethink their activity levels and to make relatively simple but extremely positive steps to improve their health.
“The competitive element of the programme brings people together to support each other and their community group, while last year both groups and individuals worked towards the goal of ‘Walking to the Moon’ to have the chance to win prizes and raise money for local charities.
“The numbers show the programme’s lasting impact, with 76% of participants surveyed saying that they would try to continue with the changes that they made during Beat the Street. Children, who found the beat boxes particularly appealing, were incentivised to walk that little bit farther to win points, and many now have the confidence to walk longer distances.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s Beat the Street and hope to see even more residents walking and cycling for their own wellbeing and to help their chosen community group, school or charity.”
Dr Rod Smith, Chairman of North and West Reading CCG said:
“I’m so glad that the Beat the Streets programme is returning this year – especially as it’s gone from strength to strength recently and caught people’s imagination.
In recent years it’s been really pleasing to see so many people take part in activities – be it walking or cycling or competing as part of a team to rack up miles. We know that making exercise a part of a normal day has clear health advantages and this initiative makes exercise as fun as possible.
Walking just half an hour a day, five-days-a-week has major health benefits and can reduce the risk of developing certain illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers, dementia, depression and anxiety. Taking exercise also helps improve the health of those who already have these illnesses.
I would encourage as many of our local people take part in Beat the Streets as this year it promises to be bigger and better than before!”
The burden of disease and conditions attributable to inactivity in Reading is estimated at over £1.6million per year. Evidence from the report Walking Works, endorsed by Public Health England, highlights that physical activity is becoming a public health problem comparable to smoking. An inactive person spends 37% more days in hospital and visits their doctor 5.5% more often. Promoting walking schemes is a “best buy” for both health and active travel. Schemes to promote local walking (and cycling) routes typically have benefit to cost ratios of 20:1; compared to road/rail schemes which typically have ratios of 3:1.